Five months after a federal bankruptcy judge allowed St. David’s HealthCare to buy a Forest Park hospital in North Austin for $115 million, the facility opened Wednesday, Oct. 19, as a new surgical center, the health provider has announced.

The renamed St. David’s Surgical Hospital is part of a long-planned expansion of St. David’s North Austin Medical Center and will provide more space for St. David's physicians to perform elective surgeries that are scheduled in advance, said Allen Harrison, CEO of the North Austin Medical Center.

Allen Harrison in the Healing Garden St. David’s North Austin Medical Center CEO Allen Harrison walks through the Healing Garden on the third floor of St. David’s Surgical Hospital during a tour of the new property Tuesday.[/caption]

"We believe this is very well positioned as a surgical hospital to meet the needs of our community," Harrison said. "It was just a perfect matchup with our needs and the resources that this campus could provide."

The hospital's 8.5-acre campus, located at 1201 W. Louis Henna Blvd., Austin, includes a 146,381-square-foot main building, an adjacent 80,000-square-foot medical office building and a 500-space parking garage.

St. David's Surgical Hospital will be considered part of the health provider's North Austin Medical Center, which is located about five miles south of the new property. Surgeons at the hospital will specialize in orthopedic, neurological, bariatric, gynecological and urological surgery, according to St. David’s.

Added space will help immediate capacity needs as well as better prepare the health provider for future growth, Harrison said. St. David’s HealthCare is a joint venture between St. David’s Foundation, Georgetown Community Health Foundation and the Hospital Corporation of America.

Harrison said St. David's was already in the process of adding surgery suites to its North Austin center when the option to buy a new property became available in May.

The Forest Park property was initially developed and built as the physician-owned Forest Park Medical Center Austin, but its opening was scrapped after FPMC Austin Realty Partners LP filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 5, according to court documents. That group does not include Forest Park Medical Center at Austin LLC, which was to lease and operate the hospital and included physician investors.

When St. David's HealthCare bought the property in federal bankruptcy court, it announced a plan to spend more than $275 million for new Central Texas health care infrastructure through 2018, including plans for a $50 million expansion at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, a $70 million expansion at St. David’s Medical Center in Central Austin and a $20 million investment for a new hospital in Leander.

St. David's began hiring a 130-member full-time staff for the surgery hospital in June.

St. David's surgical robot St. David’s Surgical Hospital has two robotic surgery machines, which help surgeons perform complex procedures with a higher degree of control than conventional techniques, said Allen Harrison, CEO of St. David’s North Austin Medical Center.[/caption]

The property was in many ways built for St. David's to move in over the summer, although Harrison said the health provider spent more than $30 million to buy equipment and complete other preparation.

The hospital includes 40 inpatient rooms and 10 operating suites as well pre-op and post-anesthesia care bays. It also has imaging, pharmacy and lab services.

Not all of the space will be used immediately, Harrison said.

Half of the inpatient rooms will be saved for future expansion, said Cameron Howard, the hospital's associate chief operating officer. The same goes for four of the 10 operating rooms, Harrison said.

"We'll open those as the volume will support it," he said.

The property includes a number of amenities.

Inpatient rooms are on the hospital's third and fourth floors, with the interior design utilizing space and natural light. The third floor also includes an outdoor area called the Healing Garden.

Six of the inpatient rooms include separate sleeping quarters for patients' family, an element that is fairly novel for hospitals, Harrison said. The average patient stay is expected to be 1-2 nights, he added.

On the first floor, a bistro-style cafeteria includes a wood-fire pizza oven.

The hospital was built with a six-bed intensive care unit, although Harrison said it will not be used right away. St. David's North Austin Medical Center has 24 ICU beds, which is enough to meet the center's needs, for now, Harrison said.

St. David’s opens surgery hospital Natural light is also a design element of the hospital's operating suites, which include two robotic surgery machines that help surgeons perform complex procedures with a higher degree of control than conventional methods, Harrison said. Surgeons at the hospital will perform both inpatient and outpatient surgeries.

Harrison expects demand for surgical services to continue to grow along with Austin's population, making it important to build new infrastructure to alleviate demand on St. David's existing facilities, he said.

Success at the new hospital depends in large part on how well it achieves that goal, which was the rationale for buying the property in May, Harrison said.

"We believe a big part of what we need to do is put patients here for elective surgical procedures," he said.