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MERCEDES, RGV – The executive director of the Development Corporation of Mercedes believes a new hospital-owned family practice clinic and a new nursing home and rehabilitation center will help transform the Mid Valley area.

Hernan Gonzalez
Hernan Gonzalez

Hernan Gonzalez played a big part in persuading both Knapp Medical Center of Weslaco to build the Knapp Medical Center Family Practice Residency Clinic and Touchstone Communities to build Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation.

The two facilities are currently under construction at Expressway 83 and Mile 2 in Mercedes, directly across from the South Texas High School for Health Professions.

“These two investments are a game-changer for the Mid Valley,” Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian. “It means we will get noticed in a new way. We are going to have a UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine residency program located on the expressway. There, they will be training the doctors of the future. We are also going to have a state-of-the-art nursing home, with a tremendous operator. For our local economy, it means an $11 million investment and nearly 150 jobs.”

Touchstone’s investment

The first of the two new facilities to open will be Touchstone’s Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation. It is slated to open in the summer. The 123-bed center will offer nursing, rehabilitation, and respite care for residents and patients throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Touchstone is based in San Antonio and has more than a dozen medical centers around the state. It provides healthcare services, including nursing, rehabilitation, and Alzheimer’s care.

Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa
Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa

“As everyone knows, the Rio Grande Valley is such a special part of Texas, and Touchstone Communities is extremely excited to be building a state-of-the art, new nursing community for the people of Mercedes and the mid-Valley area,” said Carl Fellbaum, president of Touchstone Communities. “We are also very pleased to be able to economically support the community, people and families of Mercedes and Hidalgo County, as well as the entire Rio Grande Valley, given that we will be hiring approximately 125 dedicated team members for Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation.”

Fellbaum said that joining Touchstone Communities in the development of Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation will be OA Mercedes Health Realty, LLC. “We are excited about being in the city of Mercedes and the opportunity to serve the community,” said Andrew Berry, an owner of OA Mercedes Health Realty, LLC.

Fellbaum said the opening of Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation will mark Touchstone Communities’ 23rd nursing and rehabilitation center in Texas. “Serving the residents of the Mid Valley and becoming a part of the Mercedes community is something we have wanted to do for quite some time,” he said. “We look forward to watching this vision become a reality in 2016, for the benefit of many, most especially our future residents.”

The Development Corporation of Mercedes’ Gonzalez said the nursing home and rehab center will be able to literally wheel their patients to a state-of-the-art family medicine clinic currently under construction by Knapp. The clinic is slated to open towards the end of 2016.

“There is a lot of synergy. Dr. Francisco Fernandez, founding dean of UTRGV School of Medicine, likes the set up because Med High is just across the street. He likes the idea of Valley students going from grade school to medical school without having to leave the Valley. Med High students will be able to do rotations at the family residency program clinic. It works well for Med High,” Gonzalez said.

Med High is also known as the South Texas High School for Health Professions.

Education Corridor

Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa said he agreed with Gonzalez’s remarks about the Knapp and Touchstone facilities being a “game-changer” for the Mid Valley.

“We are blessed to have gotten these two programs located side by side. It is a game-changer. This area is going to be transformed, not just on the expressway but on Business 83,” Hinojosa told the Rio Grande Guardian. “One of the reasons UTRGV loved the location is because they are planning to work with the students of Med High. They see future doctors coming out of that high school.”

Hinojosa said the Mid Valley now has an education corridor in the making. “Just a quarter of a mile east of Med High you have the Texas Polytechnic Institute with Dr. Roland Arriola, who used to be with UT-Pan Am. He has brought in Harvard University, the University of Washington and Texas A&M, with Master’s programs. I am glad that Mercedes is part of the UT System. We are expecting good things to come out of it.”

Hinojosa said Mercedes is poised for growth in other areas, not just the health arena. He said a Houston businessman is planning to start a meat processing operation at the old H&H facility, a new car dealership coming to the city and Rio’s of Mercedes is expanding to cater for more worldwide demand for its famous cowboy boots. “Things are going well. Thanks in part to the Outlet Mall we are No. 6 out of 22 for sales taxes among Valley cities,” Hinojosa said.

Knapp’s investment

Dinah Gonzalez, chief financial officer for Knapp Medical Center, said the Family Practice Residency Program will be a great enhancement to the Knapp franchise.

Dinah Gonzalez
Dinah Gonzalez

“The new clinic should be open around November or December, with the first residents UTRGV School of Medicine residents arriving in July 2017. We will have six residents per year so that, after the first three years, we will always be at 18 residents,” Dinah Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“I think it is important for the Mid Valley to be included in the medical school. We were seeing residency programs to the east and west of us and it was important for Knapp to step up to the plate and have something in the Mid Valley. The faculty and residents will be employees of UTRGV but the staff who will run the clinic will be employees of Knapp.”

Dinah Gonzalez agreed with Hernan Gonzalez that the Knapp clinic, coupled with the Touchstone nursing home, is a game-changer for the Mid Valley.

“It is exciting to have a healthcare clinic on the border of Mercedes and Weslaco. Our clinic will be about 14,000 square feet. It is going to be state-of-the-art. It gives people access to healthcare that currently is not there. And it is exciting to be just across the street from Med High and just in front of the new nursing home. Being on the frontage is an ideal location. My prediction is that the first day we are open we will have patients and by the time the residents get there it will be a full operating clinic.”

Marie McDermott, the interim executive director for Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, was also praiseworthy of Knapp and Touchstone building in Mercedes. Marie McDermott. “The healthcare sector is very important to the Valley and these two facilities are a game changer for the Mid Valley. Having a hospital clinic and a nursing home on the expressway is fantastic. I am very happy with these developments.”