Texas A&M University - San Antonio celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
University Health has announced plans for a new hospital on property adjacent to Texas A&M University-San Antonio on the South Side. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

University Health announced plans to purchase a large tract of land on the South Side for a new hospital, marking an expansion of the county hospital system into what has been an underserved area.

The Bexar County Hospital District board of managers on Tuesday unanimously approved spending $10.4 million for the 68-acre tract of land at South Zarzamora and Jaguar Parkway, adjacent to Texas A&M University-San Antonio and the planned VIDA residential development

The hospital system has not set a timeline for the design and construction of the new facility, and did not say how many beds it would house. The acquisition is part of the hospital system’s growth strategy to meet the needs of a growing population in Bexar County. 

In addition to a 716-bed teaching hospital and a women’s and children’s hospital under construction in the San Antonio Medical Center, University Health operates a network of outpatient facilities that includes more than 30 primary, specialty, and urgent care centers. 

“As intended, these locations have enabled us to dramatically expand access to high-quality, compassionate care, and serve thousands more patients closer to their homes,” stated George Hernández Jr., University Health president and CEO, in a press release. “However, when our patients need hospital care, they are all referred to our one hospital. This increased demand often causes University Hospital to be at capacity.”  

Last year, the hospital system purchased 80 acres at West Loop 1604 North and Shaenfield Road, and in April, the district’s board of managers approved the purchase of 42.5 acres of vacant land near the Retama Park racetrack in Selma. 

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need to expand, according to University Health. Surges in COVID-19 patients have strained the hospital’s ability to help other patients in need of advanced care at an academic medical center. In early August, the hospital temporarily halted all non-urgent surgeries.

But acute care hospitals located in suburban areas provide patients access to routine types of hospital services, such as low-risk births and hip replacements, leaving University Hospital available to accept patients needing high levels of care, such as Level I trauma and burn treatment, comprehensive stroke care, and organ transplantation. 

“University Health and I have been able to develop great partnerships with A&M and [developer] Thad Rutherford,” stated Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores (Pct. 1). “The demand for a hospital in this area is long overdue, and we’ll continue to bring much-needed resources to Precinct 1.”

The future facility’s proximity to the university also expands educational opportunities for students earning degrees in the health care field, said Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

“Our shared entry at Zarzamora will serve as a prominent gateway for the new development and symbolic of exciting possibilities for workforce development, health-science education, and interdisciplinary research collaborations … all of which are in alignment with A&M-San Antonio’s ambitious strategic plan,” she stated. “With this new site, the South Side and surrounding communities will have easier access to critical, world-class health care.”

The parcel of land is part of a 600-acre development where SouthStar Communities is planning 4,000 residential units, including single-family homes, duplexes, townhomes, apartments, and student housing. The first of those homes will be completed in early 2022. 

“We’re thrilled to welcome University Health to VIDA and to the South Side community,” stated Rutherford, president and CEO of SouthStar Communities and owner and developer of VIDA. “Their mission of improving good health through compassionate patient care, innovation, and education is an ideal fit for the area.”

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.