EDINBURG, Texas – Expanding Medicaid is one of Alonzo Cantu’s top agenda items for the current legislative session.

The co-founder of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was asked what his priorities were for the 87th Legislature by David Diaz of Legislative Media Services at a recent media appreciation luncheon hosted by DHR Health.

“We want to continue to be treated fairly, really for decades we have not really been treated fairly. We feel we can compete with anybody, whether it is Houston or Dallas, anyone like that,” Cantu said.

“For me, on a personal level, one of my concerns is, as the state has collected less funds, whether it is oil and gas or whether it is sales tax, they want to cut higher education and Texas is really 48th or 49th in higher education.”

Another top legislative agenda item is healthcare.

“A word people don’t like to hear, Medicaid Expansion. Get it into Texas. We have not gotten it since Obamacare. Instead of sending it to California and Florida. Bring it down here, spend it on healthcare,” Cantu said.

“Even though Texas is the best state in the country to do business – that is why you see all these companies coming down; no income tax, good quality of life, and more opportunity – we need more money for education.”

The media appreciation luncheon was held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. Cantu was asked to speak from the stage by Marcy Martinez, DHR Health’s director of public media relations and corporate communications.

Martinez asked Cantu to talk a little bit about the history of DHR.

“I do not have a speech. I was not prepared to talk but let me tell you a little bit about the history of Renaissance. We started as a little surgery center. Somebody said 20 years ago. I do not know how long ago,” Cantu said. 

“But the idea was, at that time, poor kids were going to be allowed to get dental procedures.”

Poor kids getting dental help was not happening at the time, Cantu recalled.

“It took a long time and didn’t pay,” he explained. “So, a few of us decided to join Renaissance. It was already in operation. Treat these kids. So, it started working well and we said, you know, we need to do something different. What does the Valley need?”

Brainstorming with the doctors who had started Renaissance, Cantu said two goals emerged.

“Our goal, when we started as a surgery center was a small hospital. No. 1, to not have patients from the Valley have to go 250 miles to Houston and treat them here. That was the No. 1 goal. The No. 2 goal was to get a medical school down here and get the research started.”

There was applause from the audience when Cantu praised those bringing healthcare research to the Valley.

“As we all know, the medical school is here, the residents are here, the Valley is starting to try… I think the difference between us and some of the other hospitals locally, most of us will answer the phone and we do different things for the community.”

Cantu asked the audience to look at DHR’s record.

“DHR is always real involved in social responsibilities, and fundraisers, and giving money, and making a commitment. And if you take a look at all the things we have brought here since we started which is a level one trauma, we are working on, comprehensive stroke center… specialists, sub specialists, that was not here when I was growing up and even ten years ago we did not have any of this stuff.”

Because of DHR’s presence in the market other hospitals have had to step up their game, Cantu explained.

“It was because local people working together, making a difference, making the other hospitals do what they needed to do, and they were not doing.”

The reason other hospitals were not giving back, Cantu speculated, was “because you guys in South Texas aren’t important.”

Cantu said he wanted these remarks to make it into the newspapers.

“I don’t care if you quote me on this. I am very committed to the Valley. I think DHR has done a great job in transforming the Valley to what… the direction we are going. SpaceX coming, imagine what happens to the Valley. A&M is here, hopefully we get more education. I think that is what the Valley needs.”

It is Cantu’s contention that DHR is unfairly criticized.

“There has also been a lot of myths about DHR. About being bullies and it is all about money. Believe me, I wish we had access to the information we need so… we are just the opposite. It goes back to, I am a Mexicano, I am a Latino. We tend not to help each other out. And it is frustrating when people bad mouth without even knowing, but the results speak for themselves.”

Cantu noted the positive role DHR is playing in administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I want to dispel some of the myths about DHR. And I am not here bad mouthing any of the other hospitals. I am not promoting DHR, even though I would like to. I am just giving you facts.”

Diaz, of Legislative Media Services, had one other question for Cantu in the Q&A. He asked what influence DHR has had in the Legislature and to give some examples of state investments and projects DHR has helped bring to the Valley.

Cantu responded: “We learned throughout the process here that politicians listen to two things and two things only. That is money and votes. So, we were able to start the Border Health PAC where we raise a few million dollars a year but we do not give any money unless people come down here and visit and realize we are not a third world country. You do not have to have body armor to come down here. We are like the rest of the state and we want to be treated like the rest of the state.”

A good example of this, Cantu said, is UTRGV School of Medicine.

“It would not be here if it was not for us pushing and pushing and pushing and have politicians come down here. We have gotten a lot of grants, a lot of appointments at the state level where we were not represented before. We are finally getting funding for education, infrastructure, highways, it all fits.”

Cantu said DHR does a lot of good things for the community that go unnoticed.

“We do a lot of those things that people do not see. It is tied back to DHR. So, that, the research we have been able to do, the grants we have gotten. It is all for the benefit of the community, not necessarily just DHR.”

Editor’s Note: The above news story is based upon on audio file provided to the Rio Grande Guardian by Legislative Media Services. The file contained a recording of remarks made by Alonzo Cantu at a media appreciation luncheon hosted by DHR Health at Edinburg Conference at Renaissance in mid-December, 2020.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Alonzo Cantu speaking at Texas A&M in McAllen in late 2019. (Photo credit: Texas A&M University)

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