Oil prices may be on the decline nationwide as the energy sector struggles in the Greater Houston area, but the health care industry is thriving as new medical facilities and expansions continue cropping up throughout the Spring area.
“Health care remains strong because we need it regardless of the economy,” said Barbara Thomason, president of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a tremendous asset to have a lot of strong health care [providers] in the community, especially if you’re being threatened by a downturn like we are.”
Seeking to accommodate growing communities in unincorporated northwest Harris County, the number of health care facilities is rising along major Spring corridors, such as FM 2920, Hwy. 249 and I-45.
Phase 1 of CHI St. Luke’s Health’s 23-acre medical complex in Springwoods Village will open in mid-January. The hospital will offer surgical services, emergency medicine and diagnostic imaging, in addition to a distinctive medical mall concept on the third floor, CHI St. Luke’s Health officials said.
David Argueta, president and CEO of the hospital, said CHI St. Luke’s Health was attracted to the growth in and around the Springwoods Village area. In addition to serving Springwoods Village, he said the completion of the Grand Parkway segments F-1, F-2 and G—planned for the end of the year—will also allow CHI St. Luke’s Health to meet the health care needs of a growing underserved population along the Riley Fuzzel Road corridor.
“When you think about the Grand Parkway [and] the anchor employers, we knew that was going to be another central point of transportation [and area] for people to live,” Argueta said.
Offering four inpatient beds in Phase 1 of construction, Argueta said CHI St. Luke’s Health officials view the Springwoods Village campus as the hospital of the future, focusing more on the needs of the growing community and addressing the health of its surrounding population rather than just offering inpatient beds.
The six-story hospital will be the first piece of what will ultimately be a more comprehensive medical complex. Argueta and Diane Freeman, vice president of clinical operations for the hospital, said CHI St. Luke’s Health officials are considering several possibilities for expansion for future phases of construction, including the potential for a 250-bed hospital.[polldaddy poll=9176899]
However, the health care provider is working closely with Springwoods Village developer Coventry Development Corp. regarding the needs of the community and want future expansions to match the needs of Springwoods Village.
“As we grow, it may be some inpatient beds, but that’s not going to be the majority of what we’re focusing on,” Argueta said. “We want to affect the health care of the community and affect the population’s health, keeping them well, keeping them out of the high cost beds like [other hospitals] and be able to serve them in a lower cost setting.”
More than a decade away from build-out, Springwoods Village already accommodates about 10,000 employees and 400 residents. Keith Simon, executive vice president for Coventry Development Corp., said the medical campus is a key piece to the community.
“We have a medical center in our RidgeGate master-planned community in the Denver area and have found it to be an extremely important aspect of the community, not only because of the good jobs it creates but also for the health care it provides,” Simon said.
Simon expects Springwoods Village will see more health care growth within the community in the coming years to complement the medical complex.
Beyond Springwoods Village, health care growth is apparent throughout Spring and Klein with some of the new and expanding facilities located along or near the Hwy. 249 corridor.
The developers of Texas Regional Hospital in the Vintage are not ready to announce specifics of the hospital under construction about a mile east of Hwy. 249. However, Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has plans for several expansions that could be completed some time next year.
Houston Methodist Willowbrook CEO Keith Barber said the hospital will add 36 beds before the end of 2015, expanding the total number of inpatient beds to more than 300. Barber said the hospital also plans to open a sleep center and expand its infusion center on the Willowbrook campus in early 2016.
The hospital system also plans to open an emergency care center on
FM 2920 in March a few miles east of the primary care facility it opened in May near Kuykendahl Road.
“In a fast-growing area, certainly putting emergency care out there is helping the community because they can get there faster versus coming all the way to this campus,” Barber said.
A popular corridor for new medical facilities, FM 2920 saw the opening of Spring Central Hospital in November 2013. The growing community was ideal for the physician-owned hospital, said Omar Kiggundu, CEO of K&S Consulting, the parent company for the hospital.
“With the growth we’ve seen in the area with ExxonMobil coming to the area and a number of other companies coming in, I think the community itself was really demanding a bit more of a local presence,” Kiggundu said.
Although the hospital has no plans for external expansions or satellite offices in Spring, Kiggundu said the hospital continues to invest in new technologies to expand its services. Earlier this year, the hospital expanded its imaging services with improved CT imaging technology and invested in robotic spine technology, which will provide for more accurate spinal surgery, Kiggundu said.
Caring for the community
Thomason and Myeshi Briley, president of the Spring-Klein Chamber of Commerce, said the additional medical facilities are needed in the region. Briley said the new health care options along FM 2920 offer residents in growing nearby neighborhoods a local source for their health care needs.
“Health care remains strong because we need it regardless of the economy. It’s a tremendous asset to have a lot of strong health care [providers] in the community, especially if you’re being threatened by a downturn like we are.”
Barbara Thomason, president of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce
“We would have had to go a little bit to The Woodlands for health care needs or [FM] 1960 or go down [Hwy.] 249,” Briley said. “There are so many new families here and [the growing health care facilities are] going to play a huge factor [in] making sure that health care needs are met.”
Thomason said she does not believe health care growth generates much money from outside the community or encourages direct growth in other industries. However, she said health care growth helps diversify an economy in the region that is heavily dependent on the energy sector.
“The health sector is a strong sector in our community, and it’s an attractive sector [with] high paying jobs,” Thomason said. “When you have some strong health care facilities, they tend to attract other strong health care facilities.”
Oversaturation of health care facilities is not an immediate concern for the local economy or health care providers, Thomason said.
“Once [health care providers] get past the idea of having too much competition, they do enjoy having other businesses like theirs in the area [where] they compete for employees,” she said. “[If] you have more facilities, you have more potential for hiring.”