University Hospital System unveiled a model of the planned Women’s and Children’s Hospital on Friday, providing the first look at what its campus will look like once construction is complete in late 2022.

Planning for the $500 million project began in 2017 following the realization that the health system’s 1 million-square-foot Sky Tower extension, which opened in 2014, was not meeting the growing needs of the community, said Leni Kirkman, UHS’ vice president of strategic communication.

“With that expansion, our [patient] volume increased rather quickly, about 20 to 30 percent per year,” she said. “We are now on some days at full capacity.”

Currently, children occupy the seventh floor of the 10-floor tower Sky Tower, and the labor and delivery wing occupies the fourth floor of the Horizon Tower. Hospital Administrator Michael Roussos told the Rivard Report that the new 600,000-square-foot tower will both provide children with their own dedicated space within the county hospital system, and allow women’s services to be upgraded.

“Right now, our women’s services are happening out of our older towers – towers that were built 20 to 30 years ago – so in order for us to really provide the best care, we need to upgrade to a larger facility,” Roussos said. “We know that San Antonio and Bexar County are expanding, and right now, we don’t have room to accommodate that growth.”

The hospital is vetting construction companies and hope to break ground on the new 12-story tower in the coming year. It will house close to 300 beds, a dedicated OB/GYN emergency department, private delivery suites, and a Level 4 maternity care center and a Level 4 neonatal intensive care unit.

The project is part of the hospital system’s capital improvement program, and is funded by UHS cash reserves and certificates of obligation, a form of debt that governments can use without voter approval for certain projects. The financing will not require a property tax increase.

The project was originally planned as a smaller building costing $390 million, hospital officials said.

“When we realized we needed to expand again, we immediately began looking into what is the most economical way to do it – how can we leverage our resources and work with companies to provide the system of care necessary for one of the fastest-growing areas in the country?” Kirkman said. “We knew we needed to ‘right-size’ it, so we aren’t [having to expand again] in five years.”

The new Women’s and Children’s Tower will take the place of what it currently patient parking at the front entrance of the hospital; a new parking structure will be built, and the new building would leave shell space for future growth, Roussos said, noting hospital officials are still making plans for the freed-up space on the seventh floor of the Sky Tower and fourth floor of the Horizon Tower.

“The most important thing for us right now is that we want to build something for the future, and this is really going to take us into decades to come in terms of care we have for women and children,” Roussos said.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.