Medical officials: Austin-area hospital additions expected to continue

Medical officials: Austin-area health care facility additions expected to continueThe Austin area’s ever-growing population has spurred a construction race during the past year among the area’s three biggest hospital providers—Baylor Scott & White Health, Seton Healthcare Family and St. David’s HealthCare—resulting in new health care facilities and expansions.


With all signs pointing to continued population growth, expansion and competition in the local health care industry will likely continue over the next several years, said David Huffstutler, president and CEO of St. David’s HealthCare. His St. David’s team is in the middle of a multiyear, $275 million capital investment plan to boost capacity and develop new medical programs.


“We’ve known that we have to continue to invest to create the capacity that we need to continue to serve more and more patients,” Huffstutler said.



St. David’s HealthCare


St. David’s in October completed the conversion of the former Forest Park Medical Center Austin, which was built by a previous provider at 1201 W. Louis Henna Blvd., Austin, but never operated, and opened the facility as St. David’s Surgical Hospital.


The 146,381-square-foot surgical center was one of two major new hospitals that opened in the Austin area in the past 12 months along with the $310 million Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, which opened May 21 and will serve as a teaching hospital for The University of Texas Dell Medical School.


Along with expansions at hospitals in Central Austin and Southwest Austin, St. David’s is also adding capacity to the north, Huffstutler said.


In Leander, an 11,200-square-foot freestanding emergency department with radiological services and a medical lab is slated to open this fall, Huffstutler said. St. David’s plans to add a medical office building and eventually a hospital on the 52-acre property on San Gabriel Parkway between US 183 and Toll 183A, he added.



Seton Healthcare Family


For Seton Healthcare Family, which is operating the new Dell Seton Medical Center, the recent capital growth is also encouraging new approaches to health care service, said Greg Hartman, the provider’s chief of external and academic affairs.


Seton has put more than $100 million into new outpatient facilities with a focus on improving access to primary care, Hartman said.


"The difference now is that you're still getting some hospital growth, just because of the incredible population growth, but that the transformation of health care is having everybody rethink the delivery system," Hartman said. 


Among new clinics is the Seton Family of Doctors Plus Express Care, which opened in November in Westlake and combines primary and urgent care services. Additional clinics are expected to open this summer in Round Rock and Southwest Austin.



Baylor Scott & White Health


Since December, Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health has also undertaken significant expansion in Austin area.


The provider broke ground Feb. 8 on a new Pflugerville hospital, which will be the city’s first. The 97,474-square-foot facility is expected to open in mid-2018.


Just prior to the groundbreaking, Baylor Scott & White Health rebranded the former Lakeway Regional Medical Center, a 106-bed full-service hospital. The facility is now known as Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Lakeway.


Baylor Scott & White Health is also planning a new hospital in Southwest Austin. The 50-bed facility is slated for a two-phase build-out on an 11-acre parcel of land currently home to the Oak Hill Golf Range. It could open by early 2019.


The provider has also opened or announced future openings for a series of new health care clinics, including two that opened in Central Austin in January and one in Westlake in May. Additional clinics in Kyle and Manor are expected to open this fall. 


Baylor Scott & White Health will evaluate locations, facilities and services as it continues to grow its presence in Central Texas, said Jay Fox, the provider’s Austin and Round Rock-area president, in a statement.


“With the continued population and business growth in this area, we want to be accessible to where people live and work,” Fox said. “Our overarching goal is to provide quality and also conveniently located care when and where it’s needed.”



Next steps


Health care executives said they expect hiring will continue to be a challenge over the next year.


Capital growth is driving increased demand and competition for new medical workers, including physicians, nurses and advanced nurse practitioners, Hartman said, adding that the need to increase its workforce was one of the reasons Seton partnered with Dell Medical School.


"The whole labor workforce shortage is a big issue, and that's going to be one of our biggest challenges over the next few years," Hartman said.


Maintaining standards as new construction continues is another challenge, Hufffstutler said.


“We’re addressing capacity constraints that are significant, time-consuming capital investments that we have to make,” Huffstutler said.



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