University Health makes plans to build two new hospitals

The Bexar County Hospital District’s board of managers on Tuesday approved plans to build two new hospitals – one on the Southwest Side near Texas A&M University-San Antonio and one on the Northeast Side at Retama.

Hospital officials presented plans to expand acute care bed capacity in response to rapid growth as projections show that by 2030, Bexar County’s population will increase by 28 percent to 2.5 million.

“We’ve always stood for access to care. It’s been a core value for us, ”University Health President and CEO George Hernandez said. “We only have one hospital for a very huge network.”

Each new hospital campus will offer 140 beds across four floors, with room to expand the buildings upward and outward. They will provide general medicine, obstetrics, general surgery, cardiac and orthopedic services.

Designs for the buildings are expected to take a year, Hernandez said. The Retama hospital could open as soon as 2026 and the Texas A&M hospital as soon as 2027.

The total cost for both projects is estimated at $ 950 million, to be funded with $ 450 million in cash reserves and $ 500 million in tax-exempt municipal bonds.

Hospital officials said there will be no increase in property taxes.

University Health is eyeing expansion in other parts of Bexar County as well. In 2020, it bought an 80-acre tract on the far West Side near Loop 1604 and Shaenfield Road with the intention of eventually building a community hospital; however, this site is not included in the capital improvement program approved Tuesday.

Chief Financial Officer Reed Hurley said the Retama site will likely “break even” faster than the Southwest Side site based of the payer mixes in those areas. More than 21 percent of patients in the southern region are unfunded, which means they neither have commercial insurance nor are covered by Medicaid or Medicare.

Still, they project that both hospitals will be profitable, saying that being able to treat patients on the South Side closer to where they live will relieve pressure on the main hospital campus, making room for more complex medical cases.

According to meeting materials provided to University Health board members, “University Hospital does not have sufficient operating beds to meet community demand.” The Women’s and Children’s Hospital, which is set to open next summer, will enable beds to move into the new tower, but it’s not enough.

As it is, University Hospital is treating adult patients across three buildings and has opened new beds where it can, and those remain full.

The board approved the recommendation to seek approval from Bexar County commissioners at their next meeting to issue certificates of obligation for the proposed projects.

By law, the county would notify taxpayers of the proposed issuance of bonds and must allow 45 days before proceeding with the bond sale.

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