EDINBURG, RGV – South Texas Health System is to change the name of its medical centers in the Rio Grande Valley.

For example, Edinburg Regional Medical Center will be called STHS Edinburg, Edinburg Children’s Hospital will be called STHS Children’s, McAllen Medical Center will be called STHS McAllen, and McAllen Heart Hospital will be called STHS Heart.

Confirmation of the rebranding came at a joint meeting of Edinburg City Council and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation on Saturday. Lisa Escobar Killion, assistant administrator of marketing and public relations for STHS, and Carlos Guajardo, chief financial officer with Edinburg Regional Medical Center, announced the changes during a one-hour presentation to city council members and EDC board members.

Killion and Guajardo also announced a $90 million project to build a medical tower at Edinburg Regional Hospital.

“We are rebranding ourselves. We have been known as Edinburg Regional Medical Center, McAllen Medical Center, etc., but as a system we are known as South Texas Health System so we want to let the public know that we are all together, that we are a system,” Guajardo told the Rio Grande Guardian, after the presentation had ended.

“So, we will be called STHS Edinburg, STHS McAllen, STHS Heart, for the heart hospital, STHS Behavioral for the behavioral hospital, etc.”

Killion spoke about the rebranding plans during the presentation. She said it would likely happen in the summer. She also said STHS would be putting billboards up at key locations to tell the public how long ER wait times are at the various medical centers.

Medical Tower


Interviewed after the presentation, Guajardo gave details about plans for a new medical tower at Edinburg Regional Medical Center.

“We are looking at a new tower to expand our services for needed patient care in the area. We are looking at a four-story facility to provide cardiology, and diagnostic Cath lab,” Guajardo told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“We are looking at getting that approved within the next month and beginning construction at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. It will probably take close to a year to build. We are looking forward to providing great healthcare here in Edinburg.”

In his presentation, Guajardo spoke of a $110 million investment by STHS in Edinburg. In addition to the four-story medical tower, estimated to cost $90 million, Guajardo said a new medical office will be built in a couple of years. This will cost about $23 million.

Killion and Guajardo provided brochures to the Edinburg leaders about STHS’s services in Edinburg. One of the brochures included information about STHS’s future plans. A section titled Growth and the Future – 2017 and Beyond, said:

“Directly aligned with Edinburg’s continued job growth and population predictions, Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Edinburg Children’s Hospital plan to expand with the construction of a new tower and medical office building by late 2018 or early 2019. The first step toward expansion was building out existing shell space to relocate the inpatient rehab unit and convert the vacated space to 26 additional medical/surgical beds.

“These expansion will help to meet the growing needs of the Edinburg community, as well as provide medical office space for new physicians practicing healthcare in Edinburg. The estimated investment for the medical tower expansion is $90 million. For the new medical office building, the estimated investment is $23 million.”

In his presentation to Edinburg city council and EDC members, Guajardo said the medical tower is the biggest project STHS is currently working on. He said STHS has secured preliminary approval for the project and that formal approval will likely come on March 22.

“We are going to build a new tower, an adult services tower, at Edinburg Regional, with four floors. We are going to have a Cath lab. We are going to move the rehab, get it out of the Children’s Hospital and put it back in the adult services area. We are going to expand it from 22 beds to 36 beds,” Guajardo said.

“We are going to move our adult emergency room. Right now it is at the back of the facility. We are going to move it to the front, so it is more accessible. We are going to have Cath lab back where the emergency room is right now. We are going to move rehab there. We are going to open 30 more beds for our adult services and then our fourth floor is expected to be shelled out for future need, which we believe to be in another three or four more years.”

According to Wikipedia, a catheterization laboratory or Cath lab is an examination room in a hospital or clinic with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualize the arteries of the heart and the chambers of the heart and treat any stenosis or abnormality.

Edinburg EDC President Gilbert Enriquez said the information Killion and Guajardo provided about the medical tower project is good to know because the city must now plan for additional traffic. Enriquez said the addition of a fifth lane on Sugar Road, north of Trenton Road, may be necessary. “That is where the majority of the population is going to be coming from. There is going to be a lot of traffic. There has been a lot of growth in that area over the last few years,” Enriquez said.

Killion agreed traffic will only increase. She said Edinburg Regional Medical Center gets around 50,000 ER visits a year. “That is a lot of traffic,” she said.

Guajardo said STHS thought that building a free-standing emergency room on Monte Cristo, in north Edinburg, might reduce slightly demand for services at Edinburg Regional, but no, it is still growing. A free-standing emergency room on McColl Road, in north McAllen is also being built, Guajardo pointed out.

“We are looking at $110 million investment right there, probably starting late this year or early next year. That is the biggest project we have right now,” Guajardo said, referring to the medical tower and medical office space projects.

“We are probably going to establish a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at Edinburg Regional Medical Center in the next two to three years. Our Cath lab right away, a NICU in two to three years. That is the immediate growth we are looking at,” Guajardo said. “We have been talking about a new medical office building. That is a couple of years out.”

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Guajardo pointed out that Edinburg Regional Medical Center sees more patients than McAllen Medical Center, even though that facility is on Expressway 83.

“These numbers point to the sheer volume of patients that come to look for services at Edinburg. We have a Children’s Emergency Department and an adult Emergency Department This past year we saw over 50,000 visit while at the McAllen Emergency Department we saw in the neighborhood of 35,000. We see a lot more emergency room visits at Edinburg. It speaks to all the growth on the north side, where we are located.”

Asked by Enriquez if STHS has any plans for an ER facility on Highway 107, going west from McColl, Guajardo said: “The Tres Lagos area, we are looking at buying property to be able to put something there down the road. But nothing in the immediate future.”

Guajardo did say STHS plans to build a free-standing ER facility in Alamo. Killion said the City of Alamo is excited about the project. She also revealed that the City of Alton has inquired about a free-standing ER facility. “Let’s take care of our patients where they live,” Killion said.

Currently, STHS has free standing emergency rooms in Mission, Weslaco and on Monte Cristo in Edinburg. Another one is being built on McColl Road in north McAllen.

Quality and Service


Killion started her presentation by stressing the need for STHS to provide a quality service. She noted that the national Healthgrades group has given “five stars” to Edinburg Regional for its gynecological procedures, its vaginal delivery, and its C-section delivery.

“Quality is something we strive to do with every single patient. It comes from our administrative team. The belief is that we have to treat everybody as though they were our grandmother was coming in, as though our relatives were coming in. There is this nurturing. The whole patient experience is very important. We want to make sure patients come in and have a good experience. It is comforting to know you have good quality care here.”

Guajardo continued this theme, saying Edinburg Regional was following Chick-fil-A’s model for quality service. He said it was all about taking care of the customer. “We invited Chick-fil A to come to Edinburg and share their secrets.”

Guajardo said social media is very important. “If we get complaints on social media we will follow up and investigate. We are going to celebrate from our wins and investigate our losses.”

Killion also told the Edinburg leaders that STHS wants to be the city’s “partners in health.” She said she used to help with physician recruitment, which meant taking prospective doctors around the area. “If you want to showcase, we can help. We want to make sure businesses feel comfortable coming to Edinburg.”

In his remarks, Guajardo said Edinburg Regional has experienced double digit growth during the past five years. “Patients are choosing us,” he said. Five to six years ago, the census at Edinburg Regional showed an average of 40 patients, Guajardo said. In December, 2017, it hit 200 and in January, 2018, we hit 228. “That is a long way from the 40 six years ago. The population has a lot to do with it but it is also about quality and service.”

Asked by Enriquez, the Edinburg EDC president, what STHS’s gross revenue is for Edinburg, Guajardo said about $150 million. “Healthcare is very unique. You bill a dollar you collect 20 cents. Sixteen cents is expenses so you kind of make four cents on the dollar, more or less,” Guajardo said.

Asked if STHS was working with UT-Rio Grande Valley, Guajardo said: “We are always exploring those opportunities. We are talking to them.”

Mike Farias, vice president of Edinburg EDC, asked if STHS is working with Edinburg CISD. He pointed out that the school district is winning lots of accolades. Farias is a ECISD school board member.

“That has been a little tough, I will tell you. I am going to be really honest about that,” Killion responded. “There is a school based clinic that is affiliated with our competitor and so they try and push a lot of that business to the competitor. We would like to come to the table and do a lot more. We do want to be more involved with the school districts.”

Killion said a lot of doctors want to be affiliated with STHS. By way of example she noted a collaboration the group has with Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen.

“Our counterpart in Cameron County has an intravascular program where these doctors go in and they treat strokes, it is like a Cath to the heart but it is a Cath to the brain. It is incredible. These Docs want to come and work with us. We are starting a brand new program over there and it is exciting. A whole neuroscience program, because nothing like that is available in this county,” Killion said.

“We do not want to send patients from here to Valley Baptist. Valley Baptist is like, we will work with you, we want to work with South Texas Health System, two top notch health systems that are working together for the betterment of the patient and doctors see that. They want to be involved with a quality organization.”

Editor’s Note: Here is a livestream of the presentation South Texas Health System made at a joint meeting of Edinburg City Council and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation:

Lisa Killion of South Texas Health System is discussing her company’s work in Edinburg at a joint meeting of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and Edinburg City Council.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Saturday, March 10, 2018