St. David’s plans to expand South Austin hospital

South Austin Medical Center opened in 1982 and has undergone a few expansions since its debut.

South Austin Medical Center opened in 1982 and has undergone a few expansions since its debut.

A $50 million expansion is slated to take place at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center as part of more than $275 million in investments St. David’s HealthCare announced May 13. 

Work at the hospital on Ben White Boulevard is expected to be completed in early 2018, and the hospital will hire 50 new full-time employees in the first year after the expansion with plans to double that number within five years of the expansion, according to St. David’s.

The changes are necessary to keep up with growing demand in the South Austin area, St. David’s SAMC CEO Todd Steward said.

stdavids-map“A lot of people who live in our community don’t want to go anywhere else; they don’t want to go downtown [for health care],” he said. “... I think that people want their health care close to home, and we’re just perfectly positioned for that.”

Construction on the expansion is expected to begin sometime within the next three years, Steward said.

The SAMC will add a 26,000-square-foot sixth floor on top of its South Tower for a new 34-bed medical and surgical unit. On top of that, a seventh floor will be built that will serve as shell space for future growth, Steward said.

The emergency department will also grow by nearly 14,000 square feet.

Serving about 110,000 patients annually, the SAMC emergency department is the largest-volume emergency department in Central Texas, according to St. David’s. The department will add a 16-bed expansion where the current emergency medical services bay is located and add other support functions, such as a new CT scanner and radiology equipment, Steward said. New personnel will include trauma-certified nurses, patient care technicians, pharmacists and respiratory therapists, he said.

St. David’s is also evaluating parking options on and around the SAMC campus, Steward said.  

David Huffstutler, St. David’s HealthCare president and CEO, said at this time St. David’s does not anticipate closures as a result of construction plans.   

“While I think there will be some noise and some dust, which is typical of major construction projects, all of it will be isolated, and it won’t impact the patients while they’re inside the four walls of the hospital,” Steward said.

The SAMC is located within Austin City Council District 3, which includes parts of Southeast and Southwest Austin. District 3 Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria, who represents the district, said he is optimistic about the jobs the expansion will bring to the area.

“South Austin is rapidly growing, so I’m glad to see that [St. David’s is] growing there,” he said.

The St. David’s investment will be a benefit to area residents, he said.

“I really see it as a plus for us,” Renteria said. “... There is a big need.”

David Huffstutler is president and CEO of St. David’s HealthCare, which is expanding the South Austin campus. David Huffstutler is president and CEO of St. David’s HealthCare, which is expanding the South Austin campus.[/caption]

Investing in health care

St. David’s plans to funnel millions of dollars into its Central Texas health care infrastructure in the next two years. The company’s plans include a new hospital in North Austin, a $70 million expansion at St. David’s Medical Center in Central Austin and a $20 million investment for an eventual new hospital in Leander.

St David’s HealthCare is a joint-venture partnership among the St. David’s Foundation, Georgetown Community Health Foundation and the Hospital Corporation of America. No philanthropic dollars will be used to support the projects, Huffstutler said.

Overall, the changes mark a milestone for St. David’s, Huffstutler said.

“Very recently we’ve reached a point [at our existing facilities] where we’re at or about to exceed capacity,” he said. “... I think this is largely a response to the demand we’ve seen.”

St. David’s has more than 8,700 employees and expects to hire about 600 new employees regionally within five years.

“We’re in a rapidly changing system generally in health care, and there are a lot of dynamics at play there,” he said, adding if St. David’s focuses on fundamentals, remains cost-conscious and focuses on growth, it can adapt as payment and delivery models change.

After the SAMC project is completed, SAMC will not be able to expand its current building any more, Steward said.

“If we have needs for expansion [after that], then we’ll have to use other portions of our campus for a new building—and we have plenty of acreage to do that,” he said.