Hays County population growth spurs $10M medical center expansion

Exponential growth in Hays County and surrounding areas has sparked what some are calling the great healthcare migration.

Over the past few years, more clinics and healthcare centers have opened doors and are expanding services to provide more care closer to home.

On Nov. 28, Seton Medical Center Hays (SMCH) accomplished one such goal by completing its 30-bed surgical unit on the fifth and final floor of the hospital. The expansion, according to officials, cost an estimated $10 million.

This latest expansion has increased the Hays County medical center from a 112-bed facility to a 142-bed medical facility.

“The additional space allows us to grow with our community’s needs, providing the high-quality, patient-centered care our patients trust,” said Neal Kelly, RN, vice president and chief operating officer at Seton Hays, said.

In a later interview, Kelly attributed SMCH’s latest expansion, as well as its future expansion endeavors, to the uninhibited population growth rate in Hays County and residents’ wishes to have access to the best healthcare closer to home.

However, Seton Hays is not the only medical center experiencing growth in Hays County.

Austin Regional Clinic, founded as an association in 1980, expanded to Kyle within the past decade and recently opened a clinic in Buda this fall. Baylor Scott and White Health recently opened its first primary care clinic in Kyle.

Baylor Scott and White Health has also opened primary care clinics in Travis and Williamson counties. Rumors have circulated regarding a potential medical center in Hays County. However, Baylor Scott and White officials have made no formal announcement at this time.

Kelly was reminiscent of the days when Seton Hays, HEB and a few businesses were the only structures that dotted the Interstate 35 corridor in Kyle in 2009.

“You look out (from the fifth floor) and it’s incredible to see the amount of growth in both business and rooftops in this area,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the medical center was built in 2009 for $144 million and was three floors high. The medical center is now five floors high with plans to expand its women’s center and update the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in early 2018.

“The reason we decided to build in Hays County was the population and projections showed that this was the next area where we were going to see really remarkable growth,” Kelly said.

Kelly added Seton Hays would be expanding and remodeling the existing women’s center at SMCH starting right after the first of the year, which will cost approximately $14 million.

Kelly said more medical providers in the area may be breeding more competition for patients. However, it’s also giving them a chance to create partnerships with one another to enhance the level of care for patients in Hays County and surrounding areas.

“We’re very interested in forming the right kind of partnerships for this community,” Kelly said.

For as much growth as Kyle is experiencing, Kelly doesn’t believe Seton Hays will rise to the level of trauma centers as Seton South Austin or Dell Medical Center in Austin.

“We’re going to grow and respond to the needs of the community and if that turns out to be a medical center the size of one of those urban facilities, then so be it,” Kelly said. “We want to be that large, capable medical center but always maintain that family feel and that community feeling that we’re all in this together.”

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