San Antonio Express-News: Exclusive: First look at UT Health San Antonio’s $430M hospital

By Laura Garcia, Staff writer, published on March 29, 2021

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has started construction on its first hospital — a $430 million facility that will offer cutting-edge cancer treatment and staff experts to take on the most complex diseases that disproportionately affect people in South Texas.

The UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty and Research Hospital is expected to open in the fall of 2024, creating 50 new medical residency spots and 800 new jobs.

The 144-bed hospital will be built on 12.2 acres in the South Texas Medical Center, on land donated by the San Antonio Medical Foundation, and is funded by the University of Texas System’s capital improvement program.

The cornerstone for the building will be unveiled today.

UT Chancellor James B. Milliken said the new hospital is a good thing for patients in the region but also for the system’s educational mission because it’ll attract new medical residents to San Antonio.

“It’s hard for me to think of a more important investment that we could be making to further develop what’s already an outstanding health science center,” Milliken said.

Currently, patients with difficult-to-treat medical conditions are leaving town for care, often driving to Houston and taking on the burden of finding temporary housing while there.

“We have an opportunity with this new hospital to chart a path that will provide the highest levels of sophisticated care,” said Dr. William Henrich, president of UT Health San Antonio. “And I think it’s much better for healing if patients can be treated closer to home.”

Patients will be admitted for advanced cancer treatment, including immunotherapy and stem cell therapy, but also to see physicians who specialize in orthopedics, urology, and thoracic and bariatric surgeries, as well as clinical trials.

About nine years ago, Henrich needed to seek cancer care in Houston for a stem cell transplant. He and his wife moved into a condo there for nearly four months, which he knows is something most San Antonians can’t afford.

“That’s the kind of care we aim to deliver to the people who are citizens of this city, this county and this region so that they don’t have to leave and go someplace else, unless you want to and have the means,” he said.

Dr. Robert Hromas, vice president for medical affairs at UT Health San Antonio, said the new hospital will enhance the system’s partnership with University Health.

Bexar County’s public hospital system and UT Health have collaborated since they both opened in 1968. In September, the organizations announced a plan to form a top-tier integrated health delivery system together to improve care throughout Bexar County.

Near UT Health’s new hospital, University Health is building a 12-story tower, which will serve as a new women’s and children’s hospital and is expected to open in early 2023.

These two new hospitals aren’t the only expansion of medical services in a widely underserved area.

Baptist Health System is adding maternity services to its Mission Trail Baptist Hospital on Brooks City Base, which will allow mothers-to-be to have their children closer to home on the Southeast Side starting in August. It’s part of a $10 million renovation project throughout the system’s campuses in San Antonio.

A new $375 million, 300-bed hospital will replace the old San Antonio State Hospital, which provides psychiatric and rehabilitative services. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission contracted with UT Health to work with other providers in the region on the hospital, which is expected to open in 2024.

The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is expected to complete a $19.4 million outpatient health care center at Texas 151 and Rogers this year.

Methodist Healthcare System, which operates nine local hospitals under a 50-50 ownership between nonprofit Methodist Healthcare Ministries and major hospital operator HCA, is investing $86 million into its Live Oak hospital. The system has plans to build a hospital in Westover Hills, as well as reopen a hospital, formerly known as Forest Park Medical Center, near Methodist’s headquarters at Loop 1604 and Interstate 10.

Hromas, who is also dean of the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, said that once UT Health’s new hospital opens, students will be able to get hands-on training there and at University Hospital using the same electronic health records system.

The online platform, called Epic, handles everything from billing to ordering lab tests to keeping patient records.

UT Health San Antonio will gain new residency training slots each year. UT System documents show the university hopes to add 130 residency slots within five years of opening the new hospital.

“We find that about half of our trainees stay in the region permanently,” Hromas said. “South Texas is underserved in health care generally, so we hope these additional training opportunities address that deficit.”

Design plans for the eight-story free-standing hospital include 12 operating rooms, an intensive care unit, infusion center, emergency department, pharmacy, laboratories and imaging center, as well as private patient rooms.

There will also be a skybridge connecting the 448,819-square-foot hospital to the Mays Cancer Center, one of four National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers and home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson.

There will also be a seven-floor parking garage and a surface lot.

Inside the front lobby will be a two-story limestone wall, a nod to the Hill Country. Architectural firm EYP also helped the university select colors and materials reminiscent of a Southwest landscape.

Henrich said administrators hope the building’s design will reflect a warm and welcoming ambiance for patients and their families, but also make it easier for visitors to find their way around.

A week before the hospital’s ground-breaking, the university mourned the death of longtime benefactor and namesake for the university’s medical school, Teresa “Terry” Lozano Long of Austin.

Henrich said his heart is full with both these events happening in close proximity because Long’s vision for the university was to serve the public good by providing excellent medical care for a needy population.

Over the years, she gave millions of dollars to the university and forged lifelong friendships with the students who she saw had the ability — but not the financial opportunity — to study medicine.

“This hospital is an expression of that love. It’s an expression of our earnest desire to do what’s right for San Antonio and do what’s right for our medical community and the way that we can help,” Henrich said.

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