BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Three members of Congress from Texas have penned letters in support of DHR Health’s application to expand services.

U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, Henry Culler of Laredo, and Michael C. Burgess of Denton County sent letters to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Burgess is a medical doctor. 

DHR Health is slated to officially open a 59-bed general hospital in Brownsville, Texas, in the coming weeks. 

According to information sent to the Texas Health & Human Services Commission, DHR says the hospital will have 39 medical/surgical inpatient beds at single occupancy and 59 at double occupancy, along with “clinical laboratory services, diagnostic x-ray services, treatment facility, including surgery, a 24/7 basic emergency department, intensive care unit with three beds, and seven nursing stains with around-the-clock nursing care.”

In order to build and operate a general hospital in Brownsville, DHR Health had to seek an exception to a federal prohibition against expansion of the facility capacity of a physician-owned hospital.

DHR Health is a physician-owned hospital based in Edinburg, Texas. It needed the approval of CMS in order to expand into Brownsville. 

As it considered DHR’s application, CMS invited public comment. Some of the correspondence CMS received was in favor of DHR’s expansion. Some was against. Here, below, are the letters of support from Congressmen Gonzalez, Cuellar, and Burgess. 


Congressman Vicente Gonzalez


March 11, 2022

The Honorable Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Ave. SW

Washington, DC 20201

Dear Administrator Brooks-LaSure,

I write to express my continued support for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Ltd.’s (DHR Health) physician-owned hospital high-Medicaid facility expansion and to continue to make you aware of the staffing challenges OHR and other health systems in our region are presently confronting.

The health system is a safety-net hospital with approximately 44% of its patient population insured through Medicaid. DHR Health is also an economic engine for our local economy, generating approximately $1 billion in economic activity annually, and employing over 5,000 residents.

While I continue to support this expansion of DHR and others health care providers in our region, I have grown increasingly concerned by reports of staffing shortages. Any consideration for a proposed facility expansion must also consider the nurse and medical professional staffing shortage our nation currently faces. South Texas, like many communities in Texas, has relied on state-supported nursing and medical staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated the limited supply of medical professionals in our region. I invite you to direct your attention to this issue and work with me to increase access to quality health care services that maintain appropriate staff to patient ratios and improve the lives of South Texans.

I support the ability of any health system in my district to expand and increase access to healthcare services in the Rio Grande Valley. I urge the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to grant OHR Health’s application full and fair consideration.

Sincerely,

Vicente Gonzalez 

Member of Congress

Congressman Henry Cuellar


February 23, 2022

The Honorable Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20201 

Dear Administrator Brooks-LaSure: 

I write in support of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Ltd.’s (DHR Health) application for expansion. DHR Health is a tertiary referral center and leading teaching and research hospital. The health system is the largest teaching hospital in the Rio Grande Valley, hosting 12 graduate medical education (GME) programs, including 6 residency and 6 fellowship programs with 150 residents and fellows in training. These GME programs are an investment and down payment on progress towards addressing many of the health disparities and physician shortages experienced along the U.S.-Mexico border region. In addition, DHR Health partners with various local and state-wide academic institutions and provides clinical and didactic training opportunities for up to 700 students daily on its campus. 

DHR Health has also established the DHR Health Institute for Research & Development (DHR IRD), an independent 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to bringing cutting-edge and innovative treatment options for the community in the Rio Grande Valley. As has been customary, clinical trials and medical studies continue to have an underrepresentation of the Hispanic population residing in this country. The establishment of the DHR IRD also aims to address this issue and include more Hispanics in clinical trials, given that approximately 90% of the population in the Rio Grande Valley is Hispanic. 

As a Member of Congress, I have encouraged such exceptions and the use of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’s) regulatory discretion to help address physician shortages in underserved areas. In the FY2021 Appropriations Act, I secured the following report language to that effect: 

“New Medical Residency Training Programs.- Given the growing physician workforce shortage, the Committee strongly encourages CMS to utilize its discretion to extend the time period described in section 413.79(e) of title 42, Code of Federal Regulations, for new residency programs in areas facing physician shortages before a full-time equivalent resident cap is applied, as authorized in P.L. 105-33.” 

I support DHR Health’s expansion request and urge CMS to grant DHR Health’s application without delay. Thank you for your consideration of this request. 

Sincerely, 

Henry Cuellar, Ph.D. 

U.S. Congressman 

28th District of Texas 

Congressman Michael C. Burgess


March 9, 2022

The Honorable Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services
200 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20201 

Dear Administrator Brooks-LaSure: 

I am writing in support of the physician-owned hospital expansion application of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Ltd. (DHR Health). Over the years, I have grown to know DHR Health well. They are one of the largest physician-owned hospitals (POHs) in the country and a prime example of why the moratorium on POHs must be repealed. DHR Health is a community health system operating four hospitals and offering access to over 70 specialties and sub-specialties across Texas. Their intricate health system includes a Level I Trauma facility, robust graduate medical education programs, and a dedicated women’s hospital where approximately 80% of the babies born are Medicaid. 

Physician-owned hospitals play an important role in providing quality, efficient, and cost-effective care in modern medicine. Patient care begins and ends with doctors, and no one is more aware of this fact than physicians themselves. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognized the role of POH’s in our health care system and provided critical flexibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing these hospitals to temporarily increase their number of beds. 

The success of these flexibilities has shown the need for the moratorium on POHs to be removed. That is why I have introduced the bipartisan Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act (HR 1330) which would increase competition and improve the quality of health care by repealing the moratorium on the ability of POHs to expand to meet their community’s needs. The moratorium fails to achieve good policy because it limits competition and access to care and lowers incentives for investment in local communities all across the country. 

We continue to see an increase in hospital consolidation, and physician-owned hospitals offer a glimmer of hope at restoring competition. I urge CMS to grant DHR Health’s application for expansion as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Michael C. Burgess, M.D.

Member of Congress


Editor’s Note: The above news story is the third in a series of stories about DHR Health’s expansion into Brownsville. Click here to read the first. Click here to read the second.


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