Construction begins on Baylor Scott & White medical center

The dirt used for a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday morning in southwest Austin had something extra in it; golf balls! The site, located along Hwy 290 near the Y at Oak Hill, was once a driving range.

Heavy equipment is now playing through; churning up the property like a Back 9 hacker.

The work is being done for a new Baylor Scott & White hospital and outpatient clinic.

It’s one of more than a dozen facilities the giant health care provider has opened in the Austin metro area within the past two years. CEO Jim Hinton made a promise about the project. "This facility we are breaking ground on will be one of the state of the art facilities that helps make health care better, better and better,” said Hinton.

Baylor Scott & White is not the only health care provider to get into the Austin building game.

Seton's new medical school complex downtown, essentially lit the fuse for the current construction boom. In Leander, St. David's recently opened a clinic with plans to eventually build a hospital along the 183 tollway. Hospital executives, like Baylor Scott & White Region President Jay Fox, believe there is enough demand to sustain even more projects.

"And so, so many new people are moving here every single day in this market and so they need services, they need physicians, they need clinics, and so we are here to meet that need,” said Fox. 

Officials with Baylor Scott & White declined to say how much the Austin-Oak Hill Medical Center will cost. Fox did say it represents an investment of millions of dollars. Transforming the old golf-driving range into a Medical Center is expected to take a little more than 12 months.

But even after the doors open, a challenge remains. "I'm glad the academic institutions are here, because one of the main things we have to work on is, how do we make sure we have the providers, to fill these wonderful jobs that are being created,” said State Rep. Donna Howard ( D) Austin.

Representative Howard tells FOX 7 Austin legislation was passed during the last session that allows ACC to expand its nursing program. While that will help with that area of need, there are still university graduate health care programs, with more than a hundred applicants for handful of open seats.

The gap is blamed on a lack of faculty members to teach the courses.

Howard says the problem is complex and so will be the solutions. "It’s not that we can’t solve it, but it's probably going to be an on-going issue as health care providers retire as we grow our population, as we determine how best to deliver the care,” said Howard.

Failing to address the personnel problem could be a hole that buries future expansion plans.