Harris Health has outlined a groundbreaking capital building initiative as part of its 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, with a primary focus on optimizing facility infrastructure. The plan encompasses a $2.9 billion strategic facilities plan, specifically aimed at enhancing services for uninsured and vulnerable residents of Harris County for the next 50 years.

To fund this effort, Harris Health has requested a $2.5 billion bond election from Harris County Commissioners Court. If approved by the court, the item would be placed on the upcoming ballot during the November election.

The $2.9 billion strategic facilities plan includes:

  • $1.6 billion toward the construction of a new hospital on the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital campus
  • $400 million to make renovations to the existing LBJ Hospital
  • $500 million toward improvements at existing community clinics and the opening of new community clinics in underserved parts of the county
  • $400 million to make renovations to Ben Taub Hospital
Harris Health conducted a comprehensive needs assessment study and found the following factors necessitate its strategic facilities plan:

Growing population
  • One in four Harris County residents are uninsured
  • This equates to nearly 1.2 million residents who may need Harris Health services
  • The number of uninsured residents is expected to exceed 1.5 million by 2050
Capacity issues at both hospitals
  • Both Harris Health hospitals, Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson, currently operate at 90-100% daily occupancy, exceeding the average national occupancy rate of 85% or below for best practice and optimal patient care flow
Challenges of outpatient services
  • Combined with nearly 40 outpatient specialty clinics and primary care clinics, ambulatory care services need better alignment and infrastructure updates to meet population shifts and clinical needs
Harris Health plans to finance this capital facilities program through the following:
  • Harris Health has requested a $2.5 billion bond election be ordered by Harris County Commissioners Court
  • If approved by commissioners court, Harris County voters will decide on the proposal during the November election
  • If approved, the bond is projected to cost the owner of $300,000 home $6 per month in property taxes
Meet some key members of the Harris Health team, including Louis Smith, senior executive vice president and chief operations officer; Patricia Darnauer, executive vice president and administrator, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital; as well as Aown Syed, vice president of operations, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.

What are the objectives of Harris Health's 2021-2025 Strategic Plan in relation to optimizing facility infrastructure?

Darnauer: After reviewing our locations across the area and the condition of our resources, a new strategic plan was put in place. Due to population shifts occurring in Harris County, where we aren't physically present, a revitalization of existing facilities and the development of new sites of care was needed.

Smith: The timeframe we were working under might take us 20 to 30 years or longer working with our regular resources and tax support. If the court and voters approve, we will have the ability to take out a mortgage, like people do for houses, and actually move faster regarding our ability to serve the county and maybe even get a bit ahead of the continuing population growth.

One of the big projects is construction of a new LBJ Hospital. Why is that necessary?

Darnauer: Healthcare has changed, including guidelines related to the size of a patient's room and the size of an operating room. For that reason, we believe the best solution to continue providing quality care is to build a new LBJ Hospital, compliant with current codes and community expectations for healthcare. Our emergency centers serve our population regardless of their financial status, social status or medical need.

If all of the projects on the $2.9 billion facilities plan get funded, when will the public see and use the new facilities?

Smith: The possible referendum in November is simply asking the public for approval to take out a mortgage. We actually cannot take on this debt without the public's approval. Over the next decade, we anticipate that our funding request to the commissioners court will total $2.5 billion, with the new LBJ hospital project to be the first one up to secure debt.

As far as being built and ready for service, the new LBJ Hospital could possibly be ready around 2028.

How much will it cost the average homeowner in taxes to pay for the bond?

Smith: If approved, homeowners with a $300,000 property would experience an estimated $6 monthly increase in property taxes.

Can you provide details about the additional services available at the new hospital?

Darnauer: The new hospital will be designed to be level-one-trauma capable. We will likely be a level-three trauma center on day one, but to build it as level-one capable facility means that we're constructing the hospital with additional and necessary capabilities.

We plan to offer services like interventional cardiology, comprehensive stroke care and neurologic intervention. Harris County, unfortunately, is underserved in its trauma access for residents. Our current capabilities as a level-three trauma center means that there are patients we know we cannot effectively treat. By designing the hospital to have those new interventional services, we will be able to give patients the care they need more quickly and have more positive health outcomes.

Where will the new LBJ hospital be built?

Darnauer: The new hospital will be built on the current campus, while keeping the current LBJ Hospital open during the entire process. It’s important that we keep the existing hospital open to serve the community during the construction process.

Why should residents care about Harris Health’s plans?

Syed: Harris Health is on a journey to balance the inequality of healthcare and issues that currently arise across the community and especially for the population that we serve. It’s immensely important for us to consider taking these steps for the future, understanding that it's not just for today, but for tomorrow and for future generations. This facilities plan will allow us to move further to help support our patients and their families beyond what we are doing currently. The key thing about LBJ Hospital is that we are very family oriented. This is how we operate and how we've been from day one, and how we will continue to be.

Want to support Harris Health's mission to enhance healthcare services for uninsured and vulnerable residents of Harris County? Learn more about Harris Health and its upcoming plans.

The above story was produced by Holly Galvan with Community Impact's Storytelling team with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team. Our integrity promise to our readers is to clearly identify all CI Storytelling posts so they are separate from the content decided upon, researched and written by our journalism department.