Despite hospital closing, Bay Area health care market is booming, officials claim

The Bay Area is a u201cmedical villageu201d home to several main hospitals, more smaller hospitals and many specialty clinics, and more are on the way, said Steve Paterson, president of the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Bay Area is a u201cmedical villageu201d home to several main hospitals, more smaller hospitals and many specialty clinics, and more are on the way, said Steve Paterson, president of the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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Despite hospital closing, Bay Area health care market is booming, officials claim
The Bay Area Regional Medical Center has sat vacant since its owner, Medistar Corp., abruptly filed for bankruptcy in May, but considering the Bay Area’s growing health care market, it likely will not stay empty for long.

The University of Texas Medical Branch has signed a letter of intent to lease the 373,000-square-foot facility at 200 Blossom St., Webster. The move is part of UTMB’s mission to provide health care while also researching medicine and educating students, said Raul Reyes, UTMB director of media relations.

“This is a unique opportunity for UTMB Health to advance our mission of education, research and patient care,” university President David L. Callender said in a press release. “The Webster location will complement our existing facilities on our League City campus and in surrounding areas as well as our future plans for education and research activities in the Bay Area. Together these facilities will enable us to broaden our efforts to serve a rapidly growing region while supporting our academic work to define the future of health care.”

UTMB is not just looking to lease a new building; the organization’s League City campus hospital, 2240 S. Gulf Freeway, is undergoing a $178 million expansion that, when complete in 2020, will add 60 beds to the 37-bed hospital and a five-story wing to the existing hospital. In July, construction was completed on a new parking structure and elevated walkway that connects to the hospital.

“The League City campus is located in a market experiencing rapid growth,” said Mike Shriner, UTMB vice president of business operations. “This is part of UTMB’s efforts to meet the increased demand for services as a result of the growth.”

A University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will open at the campus in mid-September. It will be the first clinical collaboration between two University of Texas System sister institutions, according to a press release.

Steve Paterson, president and CEO of the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said UTMB’s push into the Bay Area is part of a larger trend of the region becoming a competitor to South Houston’s Texas Medical Center—the largest medical complex in the world.

“We have the medical village down here,” he said. “It’s literally becoming a second medical center down here.”

There are 16 hospitals in a 7-mile radius around the UTMB Health League City Campus Hospital, including Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center, Houston Methodist St. John Hospital, Houston Physicians’ Hospital, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, Kindred Hospital Clear Lake and more, Paterson said.

Besides the many hospitals, there are several smaller specialty clinics in the Bay Area, some of which will open in the coming weeks and months, Paterson said.
“As you can see, there’s a lot going on, and it’s continued growth,” he said.

Hospitals are congregating to the Bay Area like moths to a flame, with UTMB being the flame. UTMB has been “expanding aggressively” since 2008, and others are following suit to capitalize on the opportunity, Paterson said.

Reyes agreed the area’s population has grown dramatically in the last 10 or 15 years, which is why UTMB is expanding in the region.

“You can see that driving up and down I-45,” he said.

Additionally, the Bay Area is home to an educated workforce, four community colleges and one of the best school districts in the country, which makes it a great location for hospitals, Paterson said.

The chamber will put on a health care symposium in November at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Five hospital CEOs will talk about challenges the industry is facing, and keynote speakers will discuss other topics, Paterson said.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.

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