Few industries have altered the scenery and skyline, kept architects and contractors busier and generated more jobs in the past five years in the north county and Clear Lake area than health care.
“None more than the health care industry,” said Monica Millican, chairwoman of the Healthcare Partners Committee for Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. Millican also is a former member of the board at Christus St. John Hospital in Nassau Bay.
From the University of Texas Medical Branch’s $90 million expansion of its Victory Lakes facilities to a $160 million hospital under way in Webster and all varieties of medical facilities in between, health care providers are racing to meet a demand by a fast-growing population that is both educated and affluent. That demand also is fueled by baby boomers, those born from 1946 and 1964, who will seek more health care services as they age.
But the decreasing cost of medical technology is one of the biggest reasons Webster, League City and surrounding suburbs are seeing a health care boom, Millican said.
Expensive tools and medical equipment once available only at such health care meccas as the Texas Medical Center in Houston are available in the suburbs, allowing area doctors to treat cancer and other diseases closer to their patients’ homes.
In just one of many examples, in 2007 and for the first time in the institution’s history, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center established a comprehensive clinical care center beyond its main campus. That year, the M.D. Anderson Clinical Care Center at Christus St. John began offering radiation therapy. So well received, the center quickly expanded to offer medical oncology, chemotherapy, diagnostic testing, laboratory services and a pharmacy for patients along with a blood donation center.
Area residents immediately embraced the convenience. When being treated for cancer, a long drive to the Houston Medical Center isn’t so appealing, especially when the same quality of care is closer to home, Millican said.
“The cost of technology has come down so much it can be brought out to the suburbs and we can have the same health care in a convenient manner here,” Millican said. “We have everything we need here.”
Here are just a few of the health care developments under way, planned or recently completed in north county and Clear Lake area:
• Bolstered by its success in the North County, the University of Texas Medical Branch in February commenced work on a $90 million expansion of its Victory Lakes campus. Medical branch official said the expansion, which will add 142,000 square feet of clinical space, would allow for 39 patient beds and inpatient stays of up to 72 hours; 17 emergency/urgent care treatment rooms; four operating rooms; endoscopy rooms; and 25,000 square feet of shell space for future development. It also includes a central plant to provide utilities to its 62-acre Victory Lakes campus. The medical branch in 2010 opened its $61 million Specialty Care Center at Victory Lakes, 2240 Interstate 45. The central plan is scheduled to be complete in August 2014; the clinical space is scheduled for completion in February 2015.
• The $160 million hospital Bay Area Regional Medical Center is under way at 200 Blossom St. in Webster.
Developer Medistar Corp. has partnered with Surgical Development Partners for development management and operations of the nine-story hospital. The hospital is designed with expansion in mind; Medistar plans to eventually add two more stories. When it opens — possibly late this year — the hospital will use 104 beds immediately and rapidly expand to 176 beds, the developer has said.
The parking garage will initially include 674 spaces but will increase to 900 spaces. Eventually the hospital could grow to 248 beds.
• In August, crews began work on a $92 million expansion of Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, 500 Medical Center Blvd. in Webster. Expansion includes 155,000 square feet of new construction, 80,000 square feet of renovations, expansion of women’s and children’s services, a new 30-bed Intensive Care Unit, and new operating rooms and recovery rooms, officials said.
• Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership also reports that preleasing has begun for Clear Lake Regional Medical Pavilion, a three-story, 60,000-square-foot professional building at North Texas Avenue and Medical Center Boulevard on the Clear Lake Regional Medical Center’s campus. Partnership officials expect physician tenants to occupy the new facility late this year or early next. Plans also call for a parking garage next to the proposed medical office building.
• The Methodist Hospital leased 6,216 square feet at Corporate Center Texas in Webster for a new outpatient rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic.
• A 9,000-square-foot expansion project is under way for Memorial Hermann Urgent Care Center and Multispecialty Clinic at 1505 E. Winding Way Drive near FM 528.
The health care boom is creating well-paying jobs, many that don’t require college degrees. There’s a demand for medical technicians to operate the equipment and health care machinery.
“You just need specialized training,” Millican said. “There’s a great deal of opportunity, and they’re not minimum wage jobs.”
Another reason League City and the Clear Lake area is seeing a surge of hospitals and health care facilities:
“We’re smack dab in the middle of two excellent teaching facilities — the Texas Medical Center and UTMB,” Millican said.