Why did Dell Children’s Medical Center choose Northwest Austin for its newest pediatric hospital?

Dell Children's Medical Center officials said Northwest Austin’s growth profile, combined with the opportunity to serve the greater Williamson County community, made the area a natural fit for its newest expansion. (Rendering courtesy Dell Children's Medical Center)
Dell Children's Medical Center officials said Northwest Austin’s growth profile, combined with the opportunity to serve the greater Williamson County community, made the area a natural fit for its newest expansion. (Rendering courtesy Dell Children's Medical Center)

Dell Children's Medical Center officials said Northwest Austin’s growth profile, combined with the opportunity to serve the greater Williamson County community, made the area a natural fit for its newest expansion. (Rendering courtesy Dell Children's Medical Center)

Families in Williamson County in need of pediatric health care have historically had to travel south into Travis County to get it.

Following the news that Dell Children’s Medical Center will be building an expansion hospital in far Northwest Austin, however, families from Cedar Park, Round Rock and other surrounding communities will soon have a pediatric health care option in their backyard.

Ascension Texas announced plans May 7 to construct a new Dell Children’s Medical Center campus in far Northwest Austin, to be located at the intersection of Avery Ranch Boulevard and Toll 183A in Williamson County.

The new pediatric hospital, when completed, will contain 36 beds, an emergency room, two operating rooms and endoscopy rooms. An adjacent 60,000-square-foot medical office building will house medical specialists to round out a full system of care, said Christopher Born, president of Dell Children’s Medical Center.

“We want to have a good bandwidth of medical subspecialists able to see, admit and consult patients,” Born told Community Impact Newspaper.


So, why did Ascension choose this sector of Austin, part of the small sliver inside city limits that lies in Williamson County instead of the more populous Travis County, over other parts of the city? Born himself admits Dell Children’s has eyed an expansion in South Austin.

But Northwest Austin’s growth profile, combined with the opportunity to serve the greater Williamson County community, Born said, made the site a natural fit.

KEEPING FAMILY CARE LOCAL

When Born joined the Dell Children’s executive team more than two years ago, he said the medical center’s planning department had noticed a trend of local families leaving Austin for pediatric care and choosing instead to drive to Houston or Dallas for children’s hospitals.

In some cases, Born said, families have flown out to the east coast of the U.S. for pediatric care at facilities in Philadelphia or Boston.

“While we have a lot of small clinics in the area, the large hospital infrastructure really doesn’t match the rapid growth,” Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said. The new children’s hospital will be located in Flannigan’s District 6.

The upcoming Dell Children’s Medical Center will include a slew of specialties, Born said, in an effort to serve Williamson County’s growing number of families.

When the hospital opens in November 2022, it will offer care for infectious disease, pulmonology, respiratory complications, neuroscience, gastroenterology, dermatology and ear, nose and throat complications, Born said.

Dell Children’s upcoming hospital will include an 18-bed pediatric emergency department staffed by fellowship-trained pediatric emergency medicine physicians, according to materials provided by Ascension. Additionally, the hospital’s operating rooms will be able to care for newborns and children up to 18 years of age.

When operational, the Dell Children’s Medical Center in Northwest Austin will be designated as a Level 3 Pediatric Trauma Center, Ascension stated.

The medical offices neighboring the hospital, scheduled to open April 2022, will further house medical and surgical subspecialists for patients for follow-up services, Born said.

“Certainly, these investments are going to provide broad- and wide-scale access to families with the types of medical subspecialties their children need and access points that are convenient for them,” Born said.

POPULATION NEEDS

Northwest Austin and the Williamson County cities near its boundaries continue to be tremendous drivers of growth in Central Texas, according to federal numbers.

Per the U.S. Census Bureau’s five-year estimates, Williamson County’s population in 2018 stood at 527,057 residents. Five years prior, the Census Bureau found the county’s population was 457,218 residents, meaning the county increased in population by more than 15% over that period of time.

In comparison, the state of Texas’s entire population grew by 6.87% in that time frame, according to census bureau figures.

“Ascension Texas has invested heavily in Williamson County, and we are extremely grateful that they have decided to continue that investment by selecting Williamson County as the location for their second Dell Children’s hospital,” Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said in a May 7 news release. “In addition to bringing good jobs to the county, it also brings a huge peace of mind to our residents that our children and grandchildren can receive world-class health care right here in Williamson County.”

The 35-acre plot of land where the hospital will be built sits just east of Cedar Park’s southernmost city limits, bisected by Toll 183A.

Cedar Park itself is experiencing tremendous population growth. In 2018, it was named the 13th-fastest-growing city in the entire U.S. by the census bureau.

“I think it’s exciting to have a children’s hospital of Dell’s caliber coming to our area. This is a fantastic addition for better serving the needs of our residents,” Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.

Flannigan said the area of Northwest Austin where the new Dell Children’s hospital is planned is already included in the city’s long-term planning documents, which address future infrastructure needs as the area continues to add residents, including provisions for transportation arterials and transit options.

“We have been expecting more growth, more offices [and] more employers in this part of town,” Flannigan said.

Dell Children’s Medical Center in Northwest Austin, Born said, will be able to serve the families of nearby population hubs, such as Cedar Park, Round Rock and Leander. Communities as far as Liberty Hill or Georgetown will benefit by being able to avoid driving into Austin on an increasingly congested corridor, Born said.

“As all that growth happens in the northeast, north and northwest sections of Austin, we can provide the same level of care for people who live up north as we do in Central Austin without them having to go up and down I-35,” Born said.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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