Medical corridor grows along I-45

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Texas Children’s Hospital is set to be completed in 2017 and is one of the major hospitals coming to the The Woodlands.

Texas Children’s Hospital is set to be completed in 2017 and is one of the major hospitals coming to the The Woodlands. (via Abigail Loop/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Woodlands is in the midst of establishing a new medical corridor with two major hospitals under construction and existing hospitals undergoing expansions and renovations. The medical developments are expected to bring thousands of jobs to the area.

Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital and Texas Children’s The Woodlands Hospital are being constructed along the Hwy. 242 and I-45 corridor and expected to open in 2017. CHI St. Luke’s Health’s $120 million campus is under construction farther south in Springwoods Village.
Debbie Sukin, CEO for Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital, said the hospital group moved into the area because of the population increase and demand for medical services.

“As the Greater Houston area continues to grow, the area’s infrastructure must grow with it to satisfy increasing demand,” Sukin said. “Houston Methodist has long treated thousands of international patients from more than 90 countries in the Texas Medical Center. We certainly expect our global patient services to extend to the increasingly diverse community of The Woodlands.”

Sukin said the more heath care options there are, the more competition rises between health care providers, which raises the standard for quality care.

Medical growth

Along with the construction of new hospitals in the area, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital is undergoing a $17.4 million renovation of its emergency room and a $25 million expansion of its east tower. The expansion will add 57 more beds to the facility.

CEO Josh Urban said the continuous growth in The Woodlands and surrounding area is what prompted the hospital’s current expansion and renovations.

“Since the county is experiencing rapid growth, so is our campus,” Urban said. “We’ve been here since 1985, and it’s been growing since then. There’s a lot of growth we’ve experienced in this area over the past five years.”

Keith Simon, executive vice president of CDC Houston, the developer of Springwoods Village, said giving local residents better medical options in the area while providing additional jobs is what inspired the location of CHI St. Luke’s Health in the 1,800-acre master-planned community.

“We have a hospital/medical center in our RidgeGate master-planned community in the Denver area and have found it to be an extremely important aspect of the community, not only because of the good jobs it creates but also for the health care it provides,” Simon said. “The CHI St. Luke’s Medical Campus is strategically located within Springwoods Village to provide easy access to the Grand Parkway so that communities to the west and east can also benefit from the services.”

Besides the CHI St. Luke’s Health medical campus in Springwoods Village, Simon said he expects other medical facilities to be established in the community in and around the hospital in the future.

Economic effect

Aside from offering residents in The Woodlands area better access to medical care, the newly constructed and renovated hospitals are expected to promote job growth, an increase in tourism and an overall increase in revenue as sales tax is raised from more visitors to the area.

Nick Wolda, president of The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the new hospitals are going to translate to more hotels booked for medical visits and visitors taking advantage of dining, retail and entertainment resources in the community.

“First-rate medical facilities are great for economic development—companies want to move where their employers and employees have the best medical care,” Wolda said. “We have that here now and even more is coming. Having the best medical facilities is a high priority a community like this.”

Wolda said the potential for medical meetings and conferences in The Woodlands also increases, which is what happens when an area has a top-tier medical community.

“The Woodlands has become a significant place on the map as a premiere place to live,” he said. “It’s a headquarters for corporations and a destination for tourism and conventions. George Mitchell’s vision was to have a strong medical community to accommodate the residents who live here, which is how Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital was established.”

Paul Layne, executive vice president of master-planned communities for The Howard Hughes Corporation, agreed with Wolda on the positive effect of the growth of the health care sector.

“By providing additional amenities to residents, that is another reason for more companies and homes to be established here,” Layne said. “It’s absolutely going to bring tremendous economic development with thousands of more jobs to the area.

An expanding workforce

The new hospitals under development will also bring more employees to The Woodlands area, with Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands expected to hire 500 positions and Houston Methodist Hospital The Woodlands expecting to hire approximately 650 new employees in the next couple of years.

“For the Hwy. 242 area, there is a synergy that hospitals bring, such as office suites and surgical care centers,” said Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership. “As more hospitals grow, more doctors come out here and set up their own private offices around it.”

Staley said as of right now, residents can get anything medically treated in The Woodlands except transplants and that as more doctors set up there offices in The Woodlands, more people will move to the area and more jobs will be created.

Dr. Michael Lacourse, dean of the College of Health Sciences at Sam Houston State University, said the new hospitals and medical expansions were the impetus for the Woodlands campus’ new nursing program, which opened earlier this year. [For more details staffing challenges due to a state and area nursing shortage, see
Page 52.]

“We are aware, of course, of the hospitals moving in, such as Houston Methodist and Texas Children’s and the expansion of existing hospitals and the growing need for trained nurses,” Lacourse said. “The proximity of nurses is the real reason we opened the program and to give students the opportunity to perform clinical rotations at these hospitals.”

Lacourse said there about 240 nursing students at the Huntsville and The Woodlands campuses combined, and both students and staff are excited about the upcoming medical opportunities that will soon be available in The Woodlands area.

Urban said he does not think the increase in population and the development of health care options in the area is going to slow down soon, which will not only be a positive aspect for job growth, but also be beneficial to the many residents needing close and available medical attention.

“By next summer, we’re going to see more and more medical services and demand in the community,” he said. “People don’t want to travel downtown to the [Texas] Medical Center, so we’re going to keep bringing care and services to the community here.”

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