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San Antonio Hospital Expansion

Baptist Health System has entered into a partnership with Houston’s Emerus Hospital Partners LLC to build four new emergency hospitals in San Antonio.

The total investment in the free-standing emergency care facilities will be about $40 million.

The two organizations expect this joint expansion will “reshape the emergency-care landscape” in the nation’s seventh largest city.

“Minutes matter in an emergency situation, and improving access to emergency medical care is crucial to the health and well-being of our growing communities,” said Baptist President and CEO Graham Reeve. “We believe that these free-

standing emergency facilities will make a difference in people’s lives.”

Baptist is one of the key anchors of San Antonio’s multibillion-dollar health and biosciences industry.

The development of four new emergency centers will give the San Antonio-based hospital system a greater presence in the region and provide important new access points to care in a city that has experienced tremendous growth over the last several years.

“Our strategy is to increase patient access to high-quality emergency medical care,” said Dr.Toby Hamilton, CEO of Houston-based Emerus, which currently operates three specialty hospitals in the Houston area and two in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Hamilton said the partnership with Baptist will provide just such a boost in San Antonio and give his company a presence in a key market. Emerus has developed what it believes is a revolutionary model of medical care, providing patients in underserved areas access to emergency services.

The first San Antonio facility will be about 40,000 square feet in size and is slated to open later this year, with the other three expected to be completed by mid-2012.

“We established a relationship with Baptist early that we have really been able to foster and nurture,” Hamilton said. “We feel like their commitment to excellence in their emergency care is equal to ours, and therefore this became a natural fit for us. I think you will see more of this model. There are at least another two sites in San Antonio (beyond the four emergency hospitals already planned) that we are looking at.”

Emergency services

In January, Emerus secured $30 million in funding from Austin Ventures to support an aggressive expansion plan.

“Emerus has established itself as a trailblazer and market leader in an exciting, emerging market within health care services,” said Austin Ventures partner David Lack. “They are a great growth story in Texas, and we’re excited to partner with (them) to accelerate their success.”

Michael Zucker, senior vice president for Baptist, said a shortage of primary care physicians has driven more patients to hospital emergency departments. And that has placed a greater strain on the nation’s emergency care system.

Baptist, which operates five acute-care hospitals and other health care facilities, expects it can relieve some of that pressure by providing more emergency services in San Antonio.

“Everyone is seeking out alternative sites for care because of the lack of the availability of primary care,” he said. “Establishing these types of free-standing emergency facilities will enable us to create more accessibility. From our perspective, we can bring more physicians closer to the communities that we are serving.”

The new Baptist facilities will have emergency rooms and will be equipped like large, conventional hospital-based emergency departments. Once patients are triaged and registered at the new facilities, they will be seen by a physician within 15 minutes, a key part of Emerus’ branding campaign.

The centers, which offer on-site imaging services and also have in-house laboratories, are open 24 hours, every day of the year.

They are staffed with board-certified emergency medicine physicians, registered nurses, radiation technologists and other clinical specialists. Baptist expects the four centers will create a total of 160 jobs.

The partnership will be good for both organizations and especially for San Antonio, Zucker said.

“We continue to seek ways we can make care more accessible,” he said. “Emerus has a proven track record in Houston and Dallas. They have been one of the real innovators in developing these free-standing hospitals that are providing emergency services. It’s one of their core strengths.”

(original article on BizJournals)