President and CEO of Driscoll Health System Eric Hamon gets the attention of an attendee after the announcement of Driscoll Health System building the Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley on the DHR campus during a event at the Children’s Specialty Center-McAllen on Thursday, June 15, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — Driscoll Children’s Hospital announced additional details Thursday regarding the opening of a facility touted as an independently operated, freestanding pediatric hospital on the DHR Health campus in Edinburg, including that it will be the first of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley.

The announcement was made at the Driscoll Children’s Medical Plaza in McAllen, where Driscoll and DHR representatives joined community leaders in praising the initiative, which has been billed as a unique undertaking.

Construction for the facility, which will be leased to Driscoll, is scheduled to begin this year, with a target opening date of September 2022. The children’s hospital will be funded through the Driscoll endowment, though neither DHR or Driscoll representatives would reveal the cost of construction.

Dubbed Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, the new healthcare facility will operate as a nonprofit, of which there are 32 functioning in this capacity in the country, at least according to Alonzo Cantu, a non-physician member of DHR’s Board of Managers.

“There’s 31 nonprofit hospitals in the whole United States,” Cantu said. “This one’s gonna be number 32. That’s how big a deal it is…”

As previously reported by The Monitor on Wednesday, the hospital will have eight stories dedicated to acute pediatric care.

“This is a great day for the Valley,” Dr. Manish Singh, DHR’s chief operating officer of surgery, said at Thursday’s event.

Considering the closest Driscoll hospital is in Corpus Christi, children like Audrey Zariah Garza, a Driscoll patient and health plan member from Edinburg, frequently take trips to the Coastal Bend area to receive acute care. The hours-long drive can be problematic if she requires immediate care.

Audrey Zariah Garza, 4, waits with her mother Elizabeth Ramirez on stage after her father, Leonel Garza, spoke as Driscoll Health System announces the building of Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley on the DHR campus during a event at the Children’s Specialty Center-McAllen on Thursday, June 15, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Lionel Garza III, Audrey’s father, said Thursday he is grateful to learn Driscoll will now open a hospital closer to home.

“Anything could happen from here to over there,” Garza said. “Sometimes we would have to rush back and police would have to escort us to go back to the hospital because her oxygen was dropping.”

The children’s hospital will also be able to provide care in the following areas: acute inpatient and outpatient surgeries, emergency services, pediatric specialists, level III neonatal intensive care units, pediatric intensive care units, rehabilitation, imaging, laboratory and a child life program.

There will also be 450 job opportunities for clinical healthcare workers and other staff in the Valley.

Driscoll Health System announces the building of Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley on the DHR campus during a event at the Children’s Specialty Center-McAllen on Thursday, June 15, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

In its job posting, Driscoll encourages DHR pediatric employees to apply. The listing, however, is also open to the public.

“Whoever wants to provide great quality care to the kids is who we want,” Eric Hamon, president and CEO of Driscoll Health System, said Thursday.

Driscoll began discussing with DHR its desire to expand pediatric services in the Valley in 2019 to include inpatient acute care.

Due to legislative restrictions, DHR was not able to build a children’s facility on its own, but hospital officials knew the Valley needed one, Singh said.

Attendees applaud as Driscoll Health System announces the building of Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley on the DHR campus during a event at the Children’s Specialty Center-McAllen on Thursday, June 15, 2021, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Singh said DHR knew that building a partnership was the next step, a step which came to fruition when DHR agreed to build the hospital on its campus.

DHR officials have also recently announced plans to open a new hospital in September at the site of the former Brownsville Doctors Hospital, located at 4750 N. Expressway in Brownsville.

The new hospital will tailor to the Brownsville community by complementing the services of the city’s two existing hospitals: Valley Baptist Medical Center and Valley Regional Medical Center.

“There is a special need for health care down here,” Singh said after the event about the Brownsville initiative. “We are just trying to expand health care to the community.”


ayanez@themonitor.com