Help wanted now at area health facilities

Taylor Kennedy and Denise O’Rourke prep the CT machine while working at Lake Medical Imaging at the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood. Driven by population growth, local health care practices are in the midst of hiring more staff for current and future needs.

Local health care practices are hiring now to meet future patient needs. Multiple medical groups are adding staff for recently opened or planned facilities, reflecting ongoing demand for additional providers. Health care employment in Sumter County increased by 654 employees from 2018 to 2019, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for a total of 5,605 employees. The county also added 26 medical practices in that time. New establishments like Aviv Clinics, which opened its first U.S. office in the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood, are adding to health care job growth in 2020. The practice, which provides hyperbaric oxygen therapy, has brought in experts in the field from across the country. Its most recent hire is a doctor who starts next week.  “We have people from Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Tampa, Gainesville, Ocala and, of course, The Villages,” said Dana Nemenyi, head of marketing and sales. “This is a very special career opportunity for people that have worked in hyperbaric oxygen.” Nationally, the health care industry is working to rebound, adding an estimated 312,400 jobs in May after the pandemic led to the loss of 1.4 million health care jobs in April, according to BLS.

Some local practices expect to need more staff to meet growing demand, even with the pandemic.

After adding about 20 new providers last year, The Villages Health plans to hire another six primary care doctors, a few specialists and at least four nurse practitioners and physician assistants before the end of 2020, said Dr. Jeff Lowenkron, The Villages Health chief medical officer.

The practice recently opened a second specialty care center in the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood and announced plans for a seventh primary care center at Lake Deaton Plaza.

“The community is growing,” Lowenkron said. “The Villages Health is growing. If we can find highly motivated, patient-centered clinicians, we think it will be a great addition.”

The Villages Health currently serves more than 55,000 patients and expects to add another 5,000 within the course of the year, he said.

The practice is open to feedback from those patients to find physicians who are a good fit for the practice, Lowenkron said. “For patients who know a great doctor who they think is one of the best they’ve ever worked with, if they let us know, we’re happy to reach out to them,” he said.

Family medicine physician Dr. Joseph Rizzi joined The Villages Health about a year ago.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. “Any provider interested in delivering top-notch care should really consider The Villages Health.

The Villages Health isn’t the only local practice seeking new hires.

St. Luke’s at The Villages plans to add another two to three providers to the ophthalmology practice by the end of the year, said medical director Dr. Kimberly Ireland following the opening of its new office at the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood. St. Luke’s, The Villages Health, Aviv Clinics and others will be among 25 specialty health care providers setting up practice at the four-story, 240,000-square-foot medical facility near Brownwood Paddock Square.

Lake Medical Imaging, which also has a Leesburg location, recently opened its fifth Villages office in the center.

The practice is looking to hire about a dozen employees in a variety of roles, including certified nursing and medical assistants and technologists, said Marcella “Chella” Volkmar, director of Lake Medical Imaging in The Villages.

“As we continue to grow in this location, we’re going to need more and more help,” she said.

Some employees come from partnerships with radiology programs at schools such as Marion Technical College in Ocala. 

But there also are opportunities for people with a high school diploma and a little medical background to work their way up through the practice with training it offers, Volkmar said.

About a dozen employees started at the front desk before helping techs and eventually becoming technologists.

“We can catch you up if you want to learn something new,” Volkmar said of staffers who want to rise.

Senior writer Ciara Varone can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5395, or