The south and west sides of San Antonio will have more medical facilities

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Bexar County’s vision to give underserved areas better access to public health is taking shape.

It starts with a $30 million University Health medical office building on the south side. An additional $20 million will be split between a University Health satellite medical clinic and a new school of public health to be run by UT Health San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The Texas Biomedical Research Institute will receive $3.5 million for upgrades, and $1 million will pay for five “VillageMD” clinics at Walgreens stores.

Commissioners committed $54.5 million in federal pandemic relief funds last week for projects that officials say will improve access to health care and prepare South Texas students for careers in the domain of health. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who has made public health a priority in his final months in office, said the projects will promote good health and save lives in future pandemics.

“We know it’s just a matter of when and where and what it will be, but another virus will come,” Wolff said. “This community needs to stand up and be ready.”

The new medical office building will be in the VIDA-planned community near Texas A&M University-San Antonio. University Health plans to provide primary care, radiology, pharmacy, and community education services, as well as administrative offices for employees of the Public Health Division. The building is expected to open in two years and will sit on the same 68-acre lot where the Bexar County Hospital District plans to build a 250-bed acute care hospital.

PCT. 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez, noting that University Health has a “very strong capital program” to build neighborhood hospitals and clinics, urged the health system to ensure that the satellite clinic is “closest to the people who need it the most and currently do not have access.

The Rodriguez precinct includes voters in the far western and northwest portions of the county.

“The reason we’re making this investment…is because of what we’ve just been through over the past two years. The hardest hit communities were on the south, east and west side,” Rodriguez said. “Access is a key issue and has exacerbated conditions across our community for specific populations.”

Ed Banos, chief operating officer of University Health, said the system is “committed to ensuring that we receive health care close to home.” He said the scheme was looking to acquire land in the far east or far west of the county.

New School of Public Health

The University of Texas San Antonio School of Public Health is the result of close collaboration between two institutions in the UT system to establish a community-driven, research-driven program to improve health outcomes. , reduce morbidity and mortality and educate the next generation of audiences. health professionals.

Jennifer Potter, vice president of research at UT Health San Antonio, said county funding would support a quarter of programmatic, operational and educational costs, including renovations to existing spaces on UT Health campuses. San Antonio and UTSA, during the five-year startup. .

The school is expected to enroll around 400 students in the first five years, with a master’s program in public health starting in 2024 and eventually a doctoral program in public health.

UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said the school will provide the approximately 1,000 students in UTSA’s undergraduate public health program, one of the largest in the state, the opportunity to stay in San Antonio.

“We want them to be trained here and to go out and work here and have good paying jobs here,” Eighmy said.

Representatives of the institutions told the commissioners that the city does not have a school of public health, but that is not true.

UTHealth School of Public Health already has a campus in San Antonio, as well as in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Brownsville, and El Paso.

The school, which began in 1969 as part of the UTHealth Houston system, has 1,709 enrolled students, including 168 students at the San Antonio campus.

“We look forward to working with the new San Antonio School to grow the public health workforce and public health services in the San Antonio area,” said Eric Boerwinkle, professor and dean.

UT Health San Antonio spokesperson Will Sansom said they regularly partner with sister institutions, including UTHealth Houston.

“We look forward to continuing our close relationship,” Sansom said. “Specific details regarding the growing and much-needed opportunities for public health education in Texas continue to be reviewed.”

Texas Biomed Upgrades

Dr. Larry Schlesinger, president and CEO of Texas Biomed, said the $3.5 million request is “a small part” of a planned $31.5 million infrastructure upgrade. dollars and a more than $200 million overhaul of Texas Biomed that is needed to fight infectious diseases.

Many systems on the campus, which has 400 staff and more than 2,500 primates used for research, are over 60 years old. Planned upgrades include electrical and water systems, backup power and sewer, HVAC and IT improvements.

“To support our important lifesaving work and ensure that vaccines and therapies get to people as quickly as possible, these infrastructure systems need to be upgraded,” Schlesinger said.

Commissioner Marialyn Barnard said she was glad the work included weatherization to protect primates. During a record freeze in 2021 that caused blackouts, more than 150 baboons had their fingers, toes or tails amputated after suffering frostbite, despite the use of generators and supplemental heat.

“I think the work you’re doing is good, and I’m reassured that primates are cared for and used properly in research – and ethically,” Barnard said.

VillageMD Expansion

Village Medical is headquartered in Chicago and operates more than 150 primary care clinics nationwide. The company has so far opened VillageMD clinics at two local Walgreens and is seeking federal COVID-19 relief funding to open five more clinics in medically underserved low-income neighborhoods.

The project would include renovating and equipping spaces for primary care services and paying medical staff.

Commissioners said they liked the extended hours, proximity to neighborhoods, and commitment to wellness education and patient-centered care that the clinics would provide.

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