Small But Mighty

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Weslaco residents will get a new medical resource in December pending necessary licensing and approvals. The Valley Baptist Micro-Hospital is one of the first of its kind in the nation.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer the very first micro hospital to the Rio Grande Valley,” said Jennifer Bartnesky-Smith, chief strategy officer of Valley Baptist Health System. She explains that the term micro-hospital is a new concept within the healthcare industry as a whole, so it is a new concept nationwide.

Bartnesky-Smith says that it’s hard to tell how the first year will go, but, based on the performance of Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, the emergency department and inpatient care units at the micro-hospital will be extremely busy.

Ronda Lewis, administrator of the micro-hospital, clarified that the new center will be more than a free-standing ER. It will function as a true hospital, complete with a procedure room, eight-bed inpatient unit, trauma service, and ancillary services including a pharmacy, laboratories, respiratory services, and imaging in addition to a full-service emergency department, which holds 14 beds. Valley Baptist Micro-Hospital will be equipped with the latest technology, including a 64-slice CT scanner for both in- and outpatient imaging with CT, ultrasound, and radiology capability. The imaging and laboratory services will also be available to patients whose primary care physicians (PCPs) do not have these services in their own offices.

The micro-hospital will be able to treat most injuries and illnesses unless it is determined by onsite doctors that they need the next level of care, as in the case of major trauma. In those cases, the patients will be transferred to the location that will best suit their needs. Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen has a comprehensive stroke center, level 2 trauma center, and level 3 neonatal intensive care unit.

The patients — whether they’re there for inpatient, outpatient, or routine imaging/lab work services — who have a PCP will have all of their records and whereabouts reported directly to their doctor. Lewis explained that doctors in Weslaco have been guaranteed that they will be contacted if their patients are treated at, admitted to, or transferred from the Valley Baptist Micro-Hospital through a system called Care Continuity, which facilitates care coordination between hospitals and relevant parties. The Valley Baptist operation wants local physicians to know that they are not trying to compete with them, and they are much more interested in working collaboratively to care for the patients in the area. Local physicians can even apply for special privileges at the micro-hospital so that they can conduct rounds on their admitted patients during their treatment. Patients in inpatient care who do not have PCPs will be assigned a general physician contracted by the hospital. 

In addition to Care Continuity, another program that will be implemented at the micro-hospital is a scheduling system called InQuicker. This tool allows patients to check in online while on their way to the hospital. The system will dramatically cut down time in the waiting room because the hospital will already have the patient’s information prior to arrival.

Bartnesky-Smith says that another unique aspect of the Valley Baptist Micro-Hospital is that many leaders at the mini-hospital are people born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She explains that this is a benefit because they are acutely aware of the healthcare needs in the region and are passionate about serving their community. “I have no doubt in my mind that when we open our doors, those folks are going to welcome the Weslaco and Mid-Valley community with open arms because they truly are our Valley family,” Bartnesky-Smith said.

The location choice came from careful evaluation of Mid-Valley healthcare needs. After three to four years of data analytics, traffic reviews, and market share reviews, the research showed that patients needing emergency or inpatient care were traveling from the Mid-Valley to either Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen or traveling farther west for care. Weslaco seemed ideal as a central location. Art Rangel, system vice president of the Valley Baptist Health System, says that it will keep families closer together rather than necessitating travel to see their sick and injured loved ones in another city.