FEATURED: Manish Singh, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health, observes as Gov. Greg Abbott congratulates DHR Health on its it’s one-year anniversary of having achieved a Level One Trauma Center designation. Level One Trauma Centers are verified by the American College of Surgeons, and in the Lone Star State designated by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Abbott was a keynote speaker at the event held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.
Photograph Courtesy DHR HEALTH FACEBOOK
As Texas Legislature readies for new session, DHR Health continues to build upon its roles of leadership and advocacy for South Texans
Whether it involves hosting Texas’ top elected officials in the Rio Grande Valley or having members of its own leadership team in positions of statewide influence, DHR Health continues to use its proven leadership to improve the quality-of-life for South Texans.
With the 88th Texas Legislature preparing to get back to work in early January 2023 for its 140-day regular session, officials with DHR Health are sure to once more shape and help pass legislative measures for its home region that will result in advances in health care, which focuses on preventing people from becoming ill or injured – and medical care, which is the medical treatment of illnesses and injuries.
DHR Health officials have not yet publicly revealed the hospital system’s state legislative agenda, but when they do so, it will be built on a well-documented record of achievements at the Texas Capitol and before major state agencies, boards and commissions.
Added to those legislative achievements have been the public service appointments of representatives of DHR Health to a growing list of those powerful state agencies, boards and commissions.
The most recent and public example of DHR Health’s prestige and prominence at the highest levels of elected state government leaders came on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, when Gov. Greg Abbott came to the DHR Health’s Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
The governor was the keynote speaker to help celebrate the one-year anniversary of DHR Health being designated by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) as a Level One Trauma Center.
“To say the least, this is a monumental day for this hospital and for the health and safety of the entire Rio Grande Valley region,” Abbott said. “I know that this community, for a long time, thought that it would be impossible to have a Level One Trauma Center. This is something that has been urgently needed, as well as urged for by leaders in this community for so long, and you thought perhaps it could not happen.”
Trauma care is focused on handling the most serious conditions such as car-crash injuries, gunshot wounds, traumatic brain injuries, stab wounds, and serious falls. DHR Health’s Level One Trauma Center provides 24/7 coverage by trauma surgeons and specialty physicians and offers the most advanced technology.
“DHR (Health) has truly changed the landscape of healthcare in this region. Listen, as governor, I go to regions across the state of Texas all the time, and I deal with healthcare leaders all the time,” Abbott said.
“But I have never been to a region or to a locale in the state of Texas where you have healthcare leaders who are constantly trying to advance the expansion of health care in your region in urging to work with state leaders to make sure that goal is achieved.”
Having a Level One Trauma Center is very important to a metropolitan region like the Rio Grande Valley, the governor insisted, who was speaking from personal experience.
“As a person who had a traumatic injury myself, it wasn’t very hard to explain to me about the need for a Level One Trauma Center. I was in a Level One Trauma Center, and I could not imagine somebody in the Rio Grande Valley suffering an injury like what I had, having to be taken to San Antonio or Corpus Christi or some other place,” Abbott recalled. “So, it struck a chord with me. That is why I worked along with the Legislature so powerfully to make sure that we got this across the finish line.”
According to Abbott’s officials biography:
On a summer day in July 1984, Abbott, a 26-year-old recent law school graduate, decided to take a break from studying for the bar exam by going for a jog in a west Houston neighborhood as he’d done many times before. While out running, a large oak tree along his path cracked and fell on Abbott’s back, leaving him forever paralyzed from the waist down. (Since his accident, he has been confined to a wheelchair.)
In trauma care minutes matter, the governor explained.
“Quite literally, lives will be saved and better health outcomes will be achieved because of the Level One Trauma Center that now exists in the Rio Grande Valley,” Abbott said. “But I believe that it was more than just the work of leaders at DHR and leaders in the community. This is the hand of God itself that ensured that life-saving care would be delivered for the people of the entire Rio Grande Valley region.”
Other recent and significant events and achievements in just the past two years by DHR Health include:
• The Texas Tribune, a major news media outlet the focuses on the Texas Legislature and statewide politics, in August 2022 broadcast to the rest of the state and nation, a live discussion of the priorities that will face the Rio Grande Valley during the 88th Texas Legislature. It was hosted by DHR Health and held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
The gathering, titled “Inside the Interim with Rio Grande Valley Lawmakers”, allowed Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-Mission, and Rep. Armando Martínez, D-Weslaco, to “talk about how the last session (in 2021) has impacted life in South Texas, the upcoming midterm elections, and what it all means for the 2023 legislative session,” according to The Texas Tribune officials.
• S. David Deanda, Jr., of Mission, Member, Board of Managers, DHR Health, and President, Lone Star National Bank, in July 2022 was selected by the governor to help lead economic growth and job creation strategies for the Rio Grande Valley and the Lone Star State as a member of the Texas Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors.
“I’d like to welcome the incoming Board of Directors of the Texas Economic Development Corporation and thank them for their leadership,” Abbott said. “Their efforts will be instrumental in amplifying the success of the Texas Economic Development Corporation in promoting Texas as a premier business destination, both domestically and internationally. As the Lone Star State remains a global beacon of economic vitality and job creation, I look forward to working with the new Board of Directors to help fuel continued economic expansion for our great state.”
• Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was in Rio Grande City in June 2022 for a groundbreaking ceremony for a 40-acre health-focused campus to serve Starr County. The Texas Legislature, with Patrick’s support, in October 2021 approved almost $17 million in funding for a state-of-the-art laboratory, to be built and operated by DHR Health, to help fight against infectious and other diseases. That laboratory will be one of the highlights of the medical complex.
“This funding I believe $16.7 million which is not an insignificant amount of money that we put in the bill was supported by all 31 senators,” said Patrick. “That’s 18 Republicans, that’s 13 Democrats that all came together for Starr County.”
DHR Health officials said the construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2023. The state money for the laboratory was authorized by state lawmakers in October 2021, during the third special session of the Texas Legislature.
• Alonzo Cantú, a co-founder of DHR Health, who also serves on the Board of Regents, The University of Houston System, in April 2022 was one of three statewide leaders selected by Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, as key advisors on a statewide plan to provide affordable, high-speed broadband Internet to millions of Texans.
Serving as Phelan’s appointees with Cantú on the 10-member Broadband Development Office Board of Advisors are Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, who was the author of House Bill 5, which is designed to help almost 2.8 million Texas households, including seven million people, who lack broadband access, and Mari Robinson, the Director of Telehealth for the University of Texas System, which is one of the state’s largest providers of telemedicine and virtual health services.
“After spearheading the legislation in 2021 that allocated over $500 million to broadband expansion efforts in Texas, I’m confident that Rep. Ashby’s expertise on the issues, along with the deep knowledge and experience both Alonzo Cantú and Mari Robinson bring to the table on this topic, is just the leadership with need on the Board of Advisors for the Texas Broadband Development Office,” the Speaker of the House said.
• Mario Lizcano, Administrator of Corporate Affairs, DHR Health, in March 2022 was appointed to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement by the governor.
The mission of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, as a regulatory state agency, is to establish and enforce standards to ensure that the people of Texas are served by highly trained and ethical law enforcement, corrections, and telecommunications personnel.
Lizcano noted the extensive influence of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
“Because it is an actual regulatory agency – it oversees a lot of educational needs and other issues that come up, such as making sure that all law enforcement professionals have their licenses up-to-date and that everyone is held to the highest professional standards,” Lizcano said.
Valley lawmakers in November 2021 secured $16.7 million to help DHR Health continue preparing the region for COVID-19 and any future public health emergencies.
“Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which uses $13.3 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act spearheaded by President Joe Biden and approved by the United States Congress in 2020, includes $16.7 million for upgrading existing laboratory facilities associated with DHR Health in Hidalgo County and new laboratory infrastructure in Starr County,” said Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
Earlier in Fall 2021, DHR Health qualified for $5.2 million from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to support its Nurse Family Partnership program in grant funding, he added.
“The nurse-family partnership program is a critical program that has achieved amazing results. This program works with first-time mothers to promote successful outcomes for both mom and baby,” Hinojosa explained. “Since we established this program 15 years ago, nearly 18,000 families have been served, with nine out of 10 moms seeing positive results for themselves and their family.”
Hinojosa was a coauthor of Senate Bill 156, approved during the 80th Regular Session on the Texas Legislature in 2007, which established this grant program.
• In November 2021, Driscoll Health System, in partnership with DHR Health, held a groundbreaking ceremony for Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, located at 2820 W. Michelangelo Drive in Edinburg, which is being built on the site of the DHR Health campus, next to DHR Health’s The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance.
“A groundbreaking changes a concept to a reality. As we reach this stage with Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, it is both gratifying and exciting. I look forward to the road ahead, leading to a new full-service pediatric hospital for the children of the Rio Grande Valley,” said Eric Hamon, President and CEO of Driscoll Health System.
Roberto Haddad, Vice President, Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy, DHR Health, and former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling in October 2021 – through Futuro RGV Facebook – provided legislative analyses of the eight proposed Texas constitutional amendments.
Futuro RGV is a group of citizen volunteers who present information regarding issues and concerns in our communities. It is committed to bringing impartial and non-partisan information on quality-of-life issues affecting area cities including economic growth, educational opportunities, healthy families, safe neighborhoods, green space, culture and the arts.
Haddad has served as Vice President and Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy since August 2016. He is regarded as an experienced attorney with a wide-ranging background in governmental affairs and relations, federal and state legislative process, advocacy, legal research, analysis and writing, public policy analysis and development, litigation, contracts, and health care law and policy.
Darling served as mayor of McAllen from 2013 to 2021. He won re-election in May 2017, but did not seek reelection in 2021. Darling spent 28 years as a city attorney with the city of McAllen and other governmental entities and served as City Commissioner for District 6 prior to being elected mayor.
• Alberto H. Gutiérrez, MD, Assistant Medical Director, DHR Health Hospice, through the use of the live Internet video broadcast known as Zoom, in October 2021 testified from the Valley before the House Committee on Public Health, which was meeting at the Texas Capitol Complex in Austin.
Health care in the Rio Grande Valley is still out of reach for too many hardworking people who suffer from poverty, do not have enough education, and lack affordable or dependable transportation to get routine medical check-ups and medications that can help prevent chronic diseases, according to Gutiérrez.
The public hearing, whose subject matter was titled “Issues involving access to health care along the Texas-Mexico border”, also featured Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, who serves as Vice Chair, House Committee on Public Health.
• A legislative measure supported by DHR Health officials went into effect in June 2021, which made state funding available for the education and training of podiatrists – medical professionals who specialize in the medical and surgical care of the foot and ankle – in the Rio Grande Valley.
Texas needs to increase the supply of podiatric physicians to keep up with population growth and the demand for foot-related services created by aging, diabetes, and obesity. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in October 2020 approved a request from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) to create a doctor of podiatric medicine (D.P.M.) with a major in podiatric medicine, for the UTRGV School of Podiatry.
The UTRGV School of Podiatric Medicine, located in Harlingen, is a four-year, professional graduate level education, granting the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.
This is the first school of podiatry in Texas and will allow students to pursue careers in the medical and surgical care of the foot and ankle is an important specialization for the Valley and other areas of the state with high incidence of diabetes and related diseases of the lower extremities. The school will partner with one or more teaching hospitals in the area to establish residency-training programs in podiatry.
• DHR Health supported access to health care for Texans, especially those in rural and medically underserved areas, that became state law in June 2021.
House Bill 4 – whose legislative leadership team included Rio Grande Valley state lawmakers – will improve access to health care for Texans by allowing multiple services to be provided through telemedicine, telehealth, telecommunications, or other information technology.
“This leveraging of technology has the potential of continuing to improve patient outcomes by having the patient seen and receive treatment in a more timely manner,” said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. “Also, the utilization of telemedicine provides greater access to medical specialists statewide that who don’t necessarily exist in our local communities.”
• Area lawmakers in June 2021 praised DHR Health working with Driscoll Children’s Hospital to build an eight-story, state-of-the art pediatric hospital in Edinburg to serve South Texas.
The new, independently operated, eight-level pediatric hospital will further the mission of Driscoll Children’s Hospital founder Clara Driscoll to provide medical care to all the children of South Texas. The building is expected to be completed in Spring 2023.
Importantly, the establishment of Driscoll Children’s in Edinburg, the region’s first truly freestanding and dedicated non-profit children’s hospital, thereby ensuring that the children of the Rio Grande Valley have access to the highest level of pediatric specialist care available and reduce the need to transfer pediatric patients out of the RGV for a higher level of care.
Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley represents a $105+ million investment by DHR Health and Driscoll Children’s Hospital of Corpus Christi, and will operate with about 600 employees, creating significant economic impact and new job opportunities for clinical and support staff in the Rio Grande Valley.
“As a paramedic and state legislator, I believe the families of House District 39 and the rest of the Rio Grande Valley will benefit tremendously from Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley,” said Rep. Armando Martínez, D-Weslaco. “As the world of medicine continues to rapidly evolve, this nation-leading children’s hospital will allow our families to seek specialized, high-quality medical services without having to travel hours away to larger cities.”
Driscoll Children’s Hospital has had a presence in the Rio Grande Valley for decades, with specialty centers in Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen staffed by Driscoll pediatric subspecialists and other clinical team members.
• Senate Bill 1397, which was supported by DHR Health, requires the Lower Rio Grande Valley Trauma Regional Advisory Council to work with stakeholders – such as hospitals, governments, community organizations – to develop guidelines for patient transfers and create a centralized patient transfer system.
“Senate Bill 1397 relates to establishing a coordinated system for the dispatch, triage, transport, and transfer of patients in certain trauma service areas Regional Advisory Councils, known as a RAC,” Hinojosa said. “Trauma Service Area V (TSA-V), located in the Rio Grande Valley, lacks a centralized system to coordinate the dispatch, triage, transport, and transfer of patients, resulting in too many patients being unnecessarily transferred hundreds of miles away to receive the care they should be able to receive within their own community.”
The bill became law in June 2021.
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)