Towering Forward

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“We just passed the state inspection!” South Texas Health Systems Edinburg CEO, Lance Ames exclaimed. “We can technically open our doors tomorrow if we wanted to!”

Ames had just met with state inspectors at the time of this interview in late July 2022.

Since breaking ground on the new patient tower in December 17, 2020, Ames and the rest of the STHS Edinburg team have been preparing to bring more top-tiered care to the region’s fast-growing community.

The first two floors of the 150,000-square-foot state-of-the-art tower opened in early August 2022, with the third and fourth floors set to open in mid-September. Altogether, this incredible $100-plus million, five-story expansion is bringing the latest in healthcare technology to Rio Grande Valley residents.

Ames, who first worked on the business plan for this addition five years ago, said that the designers surveyed their physicians, staff, patients, and local families in the early planning stages to create the master plan for the new tower.

“We are passionate about raising the bar for healthcare in the Rio Grande Valley,” expressed Ames about the new tower, which more than doubles the size of the existing adult acute-care facility. “We want to keep providing the highest level of care for our community, and this tower is an example of our efforts and progress.”

The new tower now houses the hospital’s emergency room, bringing it to the front of the hospital, and making it easier for patients, visitors, and emergency medical services personnel to reach. This emergency room is double the square footage of the hospital’s existing ER. The ER features a spacious waiting room with comfortable furniture. There are two new top-tier trauma bays that can accommodate multiple patents.

The hospital’s radiology department is now located next to the ER, allowing patients to receive advanced imaging services and quality care. The comprehensive imaging center also features a women’s imaging center that gives female patients more privacy in a boutique-like space. In addition, it offers upgraded services for women, including 3D mammography.

The radiology department also offers the most advanced MRI imaging service in the Rio Grande Valley, a 3T MRI. This will allow for a much clearer image, a wider opening for the patient’s comfort, and a faster exam time. Patients requiring a CT scan can also receive the latest in imaging technology that will see areas at 640-slices – meaning a radiologist and physician can get a better-defined picture when diagnosing a specific area.

“We are able to see daily what the needs are and see the capacity being reached in our ERs,” Ames said, “We need more space, better equipment, improved imaging capacity, modality, MRI, CT scans, and that is how most of this tower was built — based on those needs our community had.”

The entire tower is adding 59 new adult patient beds, increasing the hospital’s total adult bed count to 202. It also includes “shell space” for an additional 55 beds for future growth.

The ICU department, located on the second floor, offers 16 new beds designed with the patient’s needs in mind. Attention to detail and feedback from nurses, respiratory technicians, physicians, patients, and families was sought when the space was designed. The department has plenty of natural light coming in from large windows, which brings a more holistic approach to healing for both the patient and their loved ones.

“It’s very calming, and we are doing everything we can to help lift the spirits of our patients and their families,” Ames said.

Every room has windows and its own restroom, which is uncommon for ICU rooms. Two ICU rooms also have a ceiling-mounted bariatric lift that will be utilized when moving a patient, adding safety and comfort for both the patient and staff.

Visitors can also find comfort in the spacious waiting area that also features large glass windows — a theme throughout the tower that Ames says helps in bringing that holistic, natural healing experience to the hospital.

The respiratory department has been relocated to the second floor of the new tower. Bringing this department next to the ICU and near the ER is important, especially when there is a need for critical care.

A new rehabilitation department is located on the third floor and features a large gym for the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered a stroke, or patients who have been in accidents and have lost their mobility. This spacious floor will allow for STHS’ nationally recognized rehab team to help patients regain their ability to walk, speak, and function. The department also has a dedicated dining area for patients to come together socially.

The fourth floor houses an adult inpatient nursing unit also designed with patient experience in mind. It includes rounded edges, safety railings leading to the in-room restrooms, scenic backdrops, large windows, and bariatric lifts in select spaces.

“With this new patient tower, we hope people will see that we are a first-class community with first-class healthcare, technology, and expertise,” Ames said. “It means the world to be able to bring such an incredible facility to our community.”

Selene Guerrero