Big Health Providers Going Small with Community Hospitals

St. David's opened a new Emergency Center for Leander in January.

The site, located along the 183 tollway near Leander's old town district is also in the middle of a residential construction boom. Building here according to CEO David Huffstutler was an easy decision.

'It sort of was, it really was,” said Huffstutler.

Buying the land and building the emergency center required an initial investment of about $20 million. Phase two starts later this year with construction of a medical office building.

That will be followed by phase 3 - a full service community hospital. It will feed into St. David's Trauma Center in Round Rock.

"There is no evidence the growth there is going to slow, in the Leander area, so we think certainly as soon as we get some physicians up there and patients know they'll have an opportunity to receive more care in their own community, we will quickly have the demand to move toward a hospital,” said Huffstutler.

The property is ready for expansion, but a start date for the hospital phase has not yet been set. Eventually this is what the entire complex may eventually look like when phase 3 is completed.

"We have learned that there are limited services patients’ needs and wants, within their communities, that are sustainable, they are lower costs, less intensive they are closer to home,” said Huffstutler.

Pflugerville and Buda are also getting their first community hospitals. Baylor Scott & White has projects underway in those towns. Healthcare analyst have indicated that Hutto is poised to be the next area for community hospitals and clinics. The trend is called “Micro Hospitals” according to Lance Lumsford with the Texas Hospital Association.

"I think to a degree its going to be the new normal for a while,” said Lumsford.

Lumsford said the return of big health care, into growing communities and those that lost hospitals years ago, is being fueled in part by two changes.

"One; cheaper access to capital, and lower construction costs in the form of concrete and steel,” said Lumsford.
Private walk-in clinics have also shown that a smaller model can work.  As a result, big providers are now getting into the game by offering a direct link into their major medical centers, if that extra care is needed.

"It's sort of not a, one size fits all, anymore, it’s not all or nothing, there had to be something in between. And I do think some of these smaller clinics, do in the box type things, the hospital industry looked at and said, we can do that and maybe we can do that better,” said Huffstutler. 

Huffstutler believes as long as the growth in central Texas continues there will be room for everyone to expand - and predicts that could mean going smaller involving partnership with subdivision developers.