Featured: Marissa Castañeda, Senior Executive Vice President, DHR Health, on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, addresses DHR Health employees gathered at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance as their frontline health care professionals waited to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. On Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 5,840 doses of the Pfizer-VuiBTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived with local and national media documenting the transfer. “The first allocations are going to the people that protect you and work to keep our community in good health,” explained Robert Martínez, MD, Chief Medical Officer, DHR Health. Carlos Cárdenas, MD, Chairman, Board of Managers, DHR Health, emphasized, “This is the best Christmas present we could have received.” https://www.facebook.com/DHRhealth/videos/3052556821510498
Photograph Courtesy DHR HEALTH
Edinburg City Council unanimously nominates DHR Health for state tax incentives possible for the hospital system’s planned $76.8 million expansion
A proposal by DHR Health for a $76.8 million expansion of the hospital system in Edinburg – which would be paid for with private investments – was recently made known by DHR leaders and unanimously endorsed by the Edinburg City Council.
As part of a presentation on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, DHR Health officials successfully petitioned the five-member city council, which includes the mayor, for approval of a resolution for designating Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, LTD, as an enterprise project under the Texas Enterprise Zone Act.
The nomination by the Edinburg City Council, which comes at no financial cost to local taxpayers, is part of an economic development tool that has been used in previous years by local government leaders in order to secure state resources for Edinburg businesses.
Ramiro Garza, Jr., a former Edinburg city manager, and a former Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, along with Carlos Cárdenas, MD, Chairman, Board of Managers, DHR Health, Ernie Aliseda, General Counsel, DHR Health, who is a former member of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, and Marcy Martínez, Director of Public Relations and Corporate Communications, DHR Health, appeared before the city council to provide details and to answer any questions.
“This is a program (Texas Enterprise Zone program) that is available to nominate a business to apply to the state to be able to considered as an Enterprise Project. It is a great benefit, it is a good partnership, because the city by nomination, is able to take advantage of this program and draw state funds for this expansion,” Garza said. “So what is the expansion? The hospital is planning to build about 140,000-square feet of new space, approximately about $80 million to $90 million of new investment, and create/retain 500 (five hundred) jobs. That will be their commitment.”
Garza also emphasized the DHR expansion proposal will “help create and retain (a combination of 500 jobs). Those are the average wage of about $62,000 a year, so the annual payroll just on that 500 employment is about $31 million every year. It’s a tremendous benefit to the community. One of the best parts is, as a city, you’re not providing city funds to the project.”
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, when he was a state representative, and Sen. Hector Uribe, D-Brownsville, in 1983 introduced and passed the state legislation that created the Texas Enterprise Zone Act.
It is the purpose of the Texas Enterprise Zone Act to establish a process that clearly identifies distressed areas and provides incentives by both local and state government to induce private investment in those areas by the provision of tax incentives and retention of high-quality jobs.
In the city council’s Tuesday, November 17, 2020 agenda packet featuring the DHR Health request, Blanca Davila, Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Department, reported the significant and positive economic impact of DHR Health on the city’s and region’s economy.
The hospital system “currently employs approximately 5,366 people with an annual payroll of $372 million,” Davila reported. “The EDC Board approved a letter of support for enterprise project nomination for DHR at its meeting on (Tuesday), October 27, 2020, by a vote of 6-0. Staff recommends approval designation. The city and EDC are working with the Office of the Governor Economic Development and DHR (Health) to ensure all requirements are met.”
The EDC Board of Directors oversees, reviews, and acts on major economic development proposals and related items prepared by the Edinburg Economic Development Department and publicly presented during regular and special meetings of the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors, which are broadcast live in Edinburg on Spectrum Cable 1300, and also televised live – with the videotaped recordings also maintained – on the city’s website at:
Mayor Richard Molina made clear his strong backing for the city resolution requested by DHR Health.
“I support what you guys do. We always use you all as a success story. The hospital community here is growing rapidly, it’s creating jobs, it’s created a buzz not only here in the RGV, but throughout the entire state of Texas. I commend the job that you guys do,” Molina said.
Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Ltd (“DHR”) and its general partner, RGV Med, Inc. (“RGV Med”) own and operate a 519 licensed bed general acute care hospital with over 60 specialties and subspecialties located at 5501 South McColl in Edinburg. The facility is one of the largest physician-owned facilities in the United States that began as an ambulatory surgery center in 1997.
Anchored in southwest Edinburg, with a growing presence in neighboring McAllen, DHR Health offers some of the most comprehensive medical care on the U.S. southern border, with more than 1,400 nurses and 600+ physicians providing care in 70+ specialties and sub-specialties.
DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the UTRGV School of Medicine and encompasses a general acute hospital with the only dedicated women’s hospital south of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, more than 70 clinics Valley-wide, advanced cancer services, the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley – and the only functioning 24/7 Level 1 Trauma Center south of San Antonio.
DHR Health is headquartered on a 130-acre site, with most of the facilities in southwest Edinburg but with a growing South Campus immediately across Owassa Road in northwest McAllen.
Garza explained that every community in Texas has the opportunity to nominate four businesses over a two-year period for selection by the state government as an enterprise zone project.
“It’s available to any company as long as they meet the criteria, they are able to meet what the program outlines. It’s open and available,” said Garza, who is President, RG Economic Advisors, Inc. of Edinburg.
Of course, I used to be here at Edinburg, so I am a little bit familiar with the history. You know, so many of the (Edinburg) businesses have been nominated over the years, so just so you all know, this has been available, this has been taken advantage of greatly, because you are drawing state funds to meet the expansion of these businesses,” Garza said. “We appreciate the support. The hospital is committed to making this expansion with your help and support.”
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY INOCULATES FIRST PERSON IN THE VALLEY WITH COVID-19 VACCINE
As the COVID-19 vaccines rolled out all over the country in mid-December 2020, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received 1,950 vaccines, to be administered beginning Tuesday, December 16, 2020, to the university’s frontline workers.
The first person to receive the long-awaited shot not only at UTRGV, but also in the Rio Grande Valley, was Dr. Michelle López, Associate Program Director, and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, UTRGV School of Medicine.
“I wasn’t nervous, and I will tell you why. Because for the past few months, we have seen how patients can be affected by COVID-19 – and the risks associated with the vaccine are nowhere near as terrible as the things that I have seen in my patients who actually get the COVID-19 infection,” she said. “I was actually very excited to get the vaccine today and I was very grateful.”
The first COVID-19 vaccine administered in the Valley was by Dr. Linda Nelson, a Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP), RN, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Senior Director of Clinical Operations for the UTRGV School of Medicine and UT Health RGV.
The vaccine, developed by Pfizer, was granted emergency authorization by the federal government for use on frontline personnel.
At UTRGV, frontline personnel has been identified as a high priority because of their heightened exposure to the virus and because of their need to stay healthy to support others as cases surge in the Valley and across the country.
“I think I will feel safer having to go to work and see my patients, and not be afraid now that I am going to get the infection and possibly die and not go home to my family,” said López.
Those in line to receive the initial vaccine at UTRGV were notified by Friday, December 18, 2020. UT Health RGV administered the vaccine based on guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From Tuesday, December 15, 2020, through Friday, December 18, 2020, UTRGV held 12-hour shifts “in order to ensure that we are able to get the vaccine to our frontline workers and support here at UTRGV,” Dr. John H. Krouse, Executive Vice President, Health Affairs, UTRGV, and Dean, School of Medicine, UTRGV, said about the first phase of the vaccine distribution.
UTRGV continues to work closely with the state and federal governments as they make decisions on when the vaccine will be accessible to the general public. Supplies will increase over time, Krouse said, and it is anticipated the vaccine will be available to all adults later in 2021.
“This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, as I have said many times. We will likely be advancing our role in the vaccination of the public daily, weekly, monthly until we really can get a significant portion of the community vaccinated and safe. That likely is going to take a better part of the year,” Krouse said.
Both Krouse and López encourage the community to remain patient and vigilant and to continue to practice good health and hygiene, wear masks, and maintain safe social distance.
“All of these things will remain critical until we get a substantial portion of the population vaccinated,” Krouse said. “But again, that is going to be well into 2021, not in the next month.” To stay up to date on UTRGV’s COVID-19 efforts and resources, visit http://www.utrgv.edu/coronavirus.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.
VIDEO by Amanda Alaniz:
(Amanda Alaniz contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).