Given the success of the first four years most visitors and residents would likely say bring on 40 more.

Given the success of the first four years most visitors and residents would likely say bring on 40 more.

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf celebrated four years last Friday, March 15, with Roger Hall, president of Sacred Heart Health Systems, grilling up burgers and hot dogs for the staff and medical team.

Reminded of the span of time, Hall recalled a trip taken by local elected officials and business owners to the Sacred Heart facility in Destin. He remembered, coincidentally, that the visiting group had bumped from a meeting room a seminar led by Kathy Chastain, who now serves as COO at Sacred Heart on the Gulf.

That trip, centered significantly on the community buy-in required to bring a hospital off the ground, buy-in represented by the memorial plaques upon the hallway walls, was an initial step to bringing Sacred Heart to Gulf County.

The buy-in from the community was hefty – donations of cash and land by the St. Joe Community; a community fundraising campaign that brought in more than $2 million and is reflected in the plaques that line the walls in the atrium and hallways at Sacred Heart on the Gulf.

The Board of County Commissioners levied a one cent sales tax to offset the cost of care for the underinsured.

The community has also provided volunteers in numbers that now exceed 300.

Committees comprised of community volunteers oversee spending of sales tax receipts and provide input and guidance on hospital operations, liaisons between the hospital and community.

And the hospital, which exceeded all odds by standing tall even after a recession and real estate collapse altered the business plan, continues to grow.

The women’s center expanded its services in the past year and the hospital established the first MRI diagnostic services in the county.

In September, Sacred Heart opened a facility on the north end of the county and in December welcomed a plastic surgeon to the growing ranks of medical professionals seeing patients in the Medical Office Building on campus.

Those ranks expanded again in January with the addition of an ear, nose and throat specialist and the hospital opened an intermediate care center earlier this month.

In the past year, the hospital also established a fund that helps provide free mammograms to women in need in Gulf and Franklin counties.

The growth and outreach has not gone unnoticed.

The hospital was named last year fourth in the nation in patient satisfaction/experience.

Earlier this month the hospital earned 20 Excellence in Healthcare Awards given to facilities which rank in the top 10 percent in patient satisfaction as reported by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, a national, standardized publicly reported survey.

“This hospital has really been a blessing to this community,” said Father Phil Fortin of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, who, he noted, has been both a volunteer and a ER patient at Sacred Heart on the Gulf.