EDINBURG, RGV – A legislator from The Woodlands says it is impressive to see the level of entrepreneurial spirit on display in the Rio Grande Valley, especially in the healthcare arena.
Republican state Rep. Steven Toth was part of a large delegation of lawmakers who participated in the four-day Valley Legislative Tour hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.
“It has been impressive. It is amazing to see the entrepreneurial spirit down here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Toth said.
“So many of the good things that have happened down here happened because of leaders that have created these incredible health systems. If the State of Texas or the federal government had ever tried to do this, they would have screwed it all up.”
Toth gave his views in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM. He spoke while touring South Texas Health System’s Edinburg Regional Children’s Hospital in Edinburg on Saturday – day three of the Valley Legislative Tour.
“It is just so impressive to see what they (hospital chiefs) have achieved, with the help of Texas at the state level. But, this innovation happened because of the entrepreneurial spirit and the creativity of the people here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Toth said. He encouraged other lawmakers, state leaders and the heads of state agencies to visit the Valley.
“It is amazing, if more things happened like this across the state of Texas we would be in better shape. Come and see and learn that when we allow people at the local level to be involved in problem-solving, better things happen. As opposed to the State of Texas mandating how things must be.”
Asked if healthcare has been the arena that has most interested in on his visit, Toth said:
“Yeah, probably. We just went over to Doctors Hospital and that was just amazing, to see what they have done. We still have some things to do. They need a Level 1 trauma center here in the Rio Grande Valley and I think we need to help with that. So, I am on board.”
Toth said he used to come down to the Valley many years ago, when traveling to Mexico was a safer proposition.
“I used to come down here with my kids, when the border was safer, before we lost control of the border. We would go into Reynosa and build homes on Easter break. It was a great memory growing up. We don’t have the ability to do that anymore,” Toth said.
“A group of adults would come in the week before and they would cut lumber and then we would bring our kids in the following week during Easter break and we would take these prefabricated pieces of lumber and build homes for people.”
Asked when this was, Toth said: About 18 years back. Our church did it. It was so beautiful. We would go, build these houses and then the community would throw a party for us and they would feed us. It was a celebration, it was wonderful, it was beautiful.”
The churches involved in the home-building project in Reynosa, Toth said, were WoodsEdge Community Church and Church Project.
Asked if the Valley has changed much over the past 18 years, Toth said: “It is amazing how much you have grown in 20 years.” Asked if he wanted to add anything else, Toth said: “Thank you to the people of the Rio Grande Valley. You guys have been so sweet and kind to us. We look forward to partnering with you to help you grow.”
‘Much more investment needed’
The visit by state lawmakers to Edinburg Regional Children’s Hospital included a presentation by Chuck Sark, regional vice president for South Texas Health System, with opening remarks from Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina.
Molina started by giving a shout-out to Sergio Contreras, president of Rio Grande Valley Partnership for organizing the Valley Legislative Tour.
Here are Molina’s remarks in full:
“Good morning, legislators, staff and sponsors. I am really excited on behalf of the Mayor’s Office and the Edinburg City Council to have each and every one of you here. It means a lot. You don’t know how much we try to lobby to get you guys attention, to pay attention to the region. It is growing very rapidly.
“I want to throw a shout out to some people really quickly. I want to thank Mr. Sergio. Let’s have a round of applause for Sergio and his staff for coordinating such an important tour to highlight the growth happening in our community. Today is a great day and we open you with open arms to the All-America city of Edinburg.
“We are proud to be the home of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the Vaqueros. As you already know, the university is home to the Valley’s very own medical school and we currently have 169 residents who are active and making our community a better place to live. And with your help we want to increase that number, as well as programs and facilities, which, I might add, will incentivize physicians to remain here, producing our future doctors of tomorrow.
“We are fortunate to have South Texas Health System here in the Rio Grande Valley – the largest health system south of San Antonio. In Edinburg alone, South Texas Health System has contributed greatly to our economy with more than 1,000 employees and an additional 700 physicians right here on staff. Universal Health System, the parent company, chose to invest in Edinburg and are going to do some more investments here very, very, soon because they believe in the growth and they believe what our city has to offer.
“With the little (amount) that has been allocated to our region, we are blessed to have such a diverse medical community here. However, for you legislators that are here visiting us, much more investment is needed to meet the unique healthcare demands that pertain to our community. Being a leader in this community for over five years and previously in law enforcement, it saddens me that our residents still have to travel outside of the region to seek specialized healthcare. And, unfortunately for them, sometimes it is costly and sometimes it is just too late.
“Researchers have concluded it takes community leaders with vision to combat public health concerns. Therefore, I am asking you to help us in hand, here in Edinburg, in funding the medical school, a Level 1 trauma center as well as clinical research in cancer that affects our community. My request, if you want to know what the mayor wants, and I am only one vote here, is that when passing legislation up in Austin, please, please do not forget about the Valley and understand that the needs of the RGV are similar to any needs in your district – in infrastructure, education and more importantly in healthcare.
“So, once again, on behalf of the mayor and the Edinburg City Council, we welcome you guys. My house is your house and it means a lot for you all to be in our home today. Thank you very much.”