St. David's South Austin Medical Center celebrates 30-year history

Before the Hospital Corporation of America announced in December 1979 its plans to build a hospital in South Austin, many residents were in favor of it, according to Brett Matens, chief operating officer at St. David's South Austin Medical Center.

Matens said other local hospitals downtown opposed the new facility, but it received significant support from residents including members of the South Austin Civic Club and the Goodnight family.

"It really came about as a community effort," said Dean Goodnight, a current St. David's board of trustees member.

South Austin residents began voicing their desire for a hospital south of the river in the 1970s, he said.

"Charlie Goodnight, my father, was a very forward, active proponent for this effort," he said, noting that Charlie Goodnight sought petition signatures, sent letters to local newspapers and attended public hearings.

Proving South Austin needed a hospital was crucial before construction could begin, said hospital CEO Todd Steward.

On March 19, 1980, HCA filed for a certificate of need with the Texas Health Facilities Commission and the Central Texas Health Systems Agency.

In 1980, the CTHSA review committee and CTHSA board of trustees, as well as the THFC hearing examiner, recommended against the proposal.

However, THFC approved construction, and the 82,000-square-foot, 98-bed South Austin Community Hospital was built for $13.19 million. It opened Sept. 19, 1982, and Charlie Goodnight was the first chairman of the board. The hospital provided services including an emergency room, obstetrics, surgery, radiology and nuclear medicine.

Histology Supervisor Kris McClendon was one of the first employees. Back then, the hospital didn't have computers.

"In the laboratory we hand-wrote all our results," she said.

In 1985 the hospital broke ground on a two-phase expansion adding 37 beds and 75,000 square feet. In 1986 the hospital changed its name to South Austin Medical Center and installed its first lithotripter shock wave machine, then a state-of-the-art piece of equipment to treat kidney stones.

The center was owned by HCA for several years, Steward said. In 1996, St. David's HealthCare contributed its assets to a partnership with HCA.

At the same time, the St. David's Foundation was established, and the nonprofit awarded its first grant to People's Community Clinic.

Since becoming a member of St. David's HealthCare, the medical center has completed many expansions, Matens said. In 2004 it opened its south tower with four labs for cardiology and a new cardiovascular intensive care unit. The medical center's most recent expansion included adding 45 new operational beds and adding to the hospital's Level II nursery, Matens said.

"We've grown with Southwest Austin, going from what was a small community hospital to now a tertiary care center where we care for patients from all over the region," Matens said.

Today the medical center has 292 beds, more than 400,000 square feet and nearly 1,100 employees.

"Year after year, our employees—both new and tenured—work together to make each year better than the last," Steward said.


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