“It’s a long time coming,” Jessica Kovarik, M.D., says about SWFL Children’s Charities Eye Institute of Golisano Children’s Hospital, which opens in August in South Fort Myers.
The new center should reduce long wait times for initial appointments and follow-up care, challenges Dr. Kovarik and her team have battled since 2015 when the board-certified ophthalmologist joined Lee Physician Group as the only pediatric eye specialist in Southwest Florida’s six-county region.
Dr. Kovarik sounds more astonished than pensive when recalling the early years of the pediatric ophthalmology department at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
“Actually, there was no pediatric ophthalmology department when I joined LPG,” Dr. Kovarik says. “We didn’t even have a dedicated space for me to see and treat my patients. We had to treat them in another building in rooms used by other pediatric subspecialties.”
Despite Golisano Children’s Hospital and LPG expanding the pediatric ophthalmology department in recent years to include a clinic with three examination rooms and more staff, community needs continued to far exceed the department’s bandwidth. Wait times for an initial appointment could exceed nine months.
“At one point, I had to triage urgent problems over things that could wait,” says Dr. Kovarik. “It was stressful for me and for my patients’ families.”
New Institute, New Level of Care
In response to the rising demand for specialized eye care services for children, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. pledged $3 million in 2020 to build the new institute. The funds paid for the new building, all the equipment, and the support needs of the program, according to Armando Llechu, Chief Officer, Hospital Operations and Women and Children’s Services, in a recent interview with Fox4News.
“We’re bringing great physicians, great equipment, to a great space. We’re really doing right by the children of Southwest Florida,” Llechu said.
The new eye institute, which doubles the ophthalmology exam space at Golisano Children’s Hospital, has 14 examination rooms and two testing rooms.
The institute is located just seven minutes from Golisano at Summerlin Road and San Carlos Boulevard.
“For a long time, patients had to travel outside our area, typically to Miami or Tampa, to receive specialized eye care,” Dr. Kovarik says. “Our goal now is to limit wait times to less than a month.”
SWFL Children’s Charities’ pledge will also help pay for the construction expansion planned for Golisano Children’s Hospital’s outpatient clinic in Collier County, where pediatric ophthalmologists will provide eye care and treatment services for the children of families in Naples.
“We are grateful for the very generous people behind this,” Dr. Kovarik says.
Visit Lee Health Foundation to see how the new ophthalmology services help children in need.
Pediatric Ophthalmology is getting a new name and new location to better serve our community.
New AddressPediatric Ophthalmology
11390 Summerlin Square Drive
Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931
Starting Aug. 2, call our NEW phone number to schedule: 239-343-8880
NEW Fax Number: 239-343-4213