Nearly every hospital system in San Antonio has scheduled what might be considered major operations aimed at closing the distance between local residents and acute care hospitals. 

In September, the Baptist Health System plans to break ground on a new, 104-bed hospital in Westover Hills while two other hospital systems have announced construction projects in the same far West Side area of San Antonio. 

Meanwhile, University Health also has two additional hospitals in the works, one on the Southwest Side near Texas A&M University-San Antonio and another on the Northeast Side at Retama. 

That’s in addition to ongoing construction at its Women’s and Children’s Hospital at the South Texas Medical Center, expected to open in summer 2023, alleviating a shortage of beds overall in University Health’s only hospital.

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the need for more space, according to a recent report by University Health officials for the Bexar County Hospital District’s board of managers. With only one hospital to serve all admitted patients, University Health struggled to provide care to non-COVID-19 patients during peaks in the pandemic. 

But the city’s growth has put the need in sharp relief. With all its hospital beds concentrated in the South Texas Medical Center, the location and transportation challenges were cited as a barrier to care for some residents. 

Across the San Antonio region, new hospitals are going up or expanding to keep up with growing population trends — though not necessarily in neighborhoods where local health disparities are greatest due to socioeconomic and other factors. 

“Right now, on the South Side, we only have two hospital systems,” said Dr. Lyssa Ochoa, a vascular surgeon and founder and CEO of the SAVE Clinic. Those are Mission Trail Baptist Hospital and Texas Vista. But the number of beds at those facilities is insufficient when compared to the population size.

In addition, acute-care hospitals tend to “drive the ecosystem of health care,” Ochoa said, attracting physicians and medical practices to establish nearby. No hospital means fewer providers in the area.

Ultimately, when patients reside far from a health care facility, or can’t easily get there, it affects their health outcomes, Ochoa said.

University Health’s plan to build on the South Side is exciting to Ochoa, especially the potential for training future health care providers. “There’s evidence to show that when doctors are trained in certain cities or certain areas, they are more likely to stay there to practice,” she said.

In the meantime, Ochoa acknowledges that a hospital system’s investment in other parts of the community potentially improves their profits “so that they are able to reinvest in these areas that truly need it.”

Here’s a look at what’s to come and where. 

Baptist Health System

Resolute Health Hospital, part of the Baptist system, plans to spend $6 million on its New Braunfels facility to add operating rooms and a cardiac catheter lab, with construction set to start this summer and be completed in a year. 

At Interstate 10 and Highway 46 in Boerne, Baptist plans to build a hospital sizeable enough to meet the increasing demand for health care service in that area, said a spokeswoman. Work at the 24-acre site will start in 2023 and be completed the following year.

In Westover Hills, Baptist plans to build a 255,000-square-foot hospital on 72 acres of land at Wiseman Boulevard and Loop 1604. Construction on the $200 million acute-care hospital will start this summer and the facility is set to open in early 2024. 

North Central Baptist Hospital, located at 520 Madison Oak Dr., is set to undergo $3 million in renovations to its women’s services department. 

The project to upgrade labor and delivery rooms, recovery and postpartum spaces and other areas, and increase the number of operating rooms, began in November 2021 and is set to be complete this summer. 

Methodist Healthcare

On Wednesday, Methodist Healthcare announced it plans to build a second medical office building at Methodist Hospital Northeast in Live Oak. Methodist Plaza II will be a three-story facility housing a hospital-based outpatient surgery center with five operating rooms, robotic surgery capabilities, and a cardiology imaging center.

In October, Methodist administrators and local officials broke ground on a 54-bed facility at Loop 1604 and Highway 151 in Westover Hills. The acute care hospital will offer emergency and surgical services, maternity care and other medical specialties. 

More patient services will be provided on the campus within a four-story, 125,000-square-foot medical office building owned by physicians and other investors. The hospital will open in 2023.

Christus Santa Rosa

Opened in 2009, Christus Santa Rosa’s Westover Hills hospital was being expanded last year to add 18 new beds, more intensive care unit beds, a labor, delivery and recovery unit and two new endoscopy suites. The project was completed in 2021.

In May, Christus Health expanded its reach across the state with a new telemedicine service, Christus On Demand Care. Virtual visits with a health care professional require only a smartphone device, tablet, laptop or a computer with a working camera and microphone.  

University Health

Expected to open in summer 2023, the new, 12-story Women’s and Children’s Hospital at University Hospital will serve women, babies and children in the San Antonio region. The facility will have a 900-space parking garage and space to accommodate future growth. 

A rendering of the University Health System Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Credit: Courtesy / University Health System

In addition, the Bexar County Hospital District board recently approved the construction of two new hospitals. 

The first community hospital, built at Retama on the far Northeast Side, could open in 2026, and the second on the South Side near Texas A&M-San Antonio in 2027. Both hospitals will be identical, with four floors and 140 beds each and an adjoining medical office building. 

The estimated cost for both hospitals is $950 million, stated the board report, with a funding proposal subject to Commissioners Court approval.

University Health also has purchased a tract of land on the far West Side for a future community hospital. 

Methodist Healthcare Ministries is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

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Shari Biediger

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