FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Starr County Judge Eloy Vera and Manish Singh, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health, listen as Lt. Governor Dan Patrick speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for DHR Health’s 40-acre medical development center in Rio Grande City. The event took place on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Photograph Courtesy DHR HEALTH FACEBOOK
Lt. Gov. Patrick credits DHR Health and Valley legislators for advancements in healthcare, economic development for deep South Texas
In the areas of healthcare and economic development, the leadership of DHR Health – helped by the Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation – continue to build upon South Texas’ positive presence in the Lone Star State, and in doing so, allow Texas to be “the true leader of the world,” according to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.
“The world needs a strong America and America needs a strong Texas,” Patrick said during a groundbreaking ceremony, held on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Rio Grande City for a DHR Health medical development center. “Texas can only be strong if every region of the state is strong.”
The lieutenant governor of Texas is the second-highest executive office in the government of Texas. It is the second most powerful post in Texas government because its occupant controls the work of the Texas Senate and controls the budgeting process as a leader of the Legislative Budget Board.
Patrick, who won reelection in November 2022 for another four-year term as leader of the Texas Senate, has been in office since 2015.
He was on hand this summer in Starr County to help celebrate the construction by DHR Health of a 40-acre medical development center.
Work is scheduled to be completed in 2023.
The DHR Health medical development center will feature a state-of-the-art medical laboratory, physician clinics, a community center and emergency hospital overflow facility, educational facilities for graduate medical education (GME) programs, and mental health and substance abuse facilities for which almost $16.7 (sixteen point seven) million in state funding was secured in the Fall of 2021 by the Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation, with key support from Patrick, said Manish Singh, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health.
“At DHR Health our vision is to create a world class system to advance medicine and increase access to the communities we serve. Today, we stand here to redirect the same commitment of DHR Health to the families and friends of Starr County,” Singh promised.
In his keynote remarks, the lieutenant governor shared the credit with Valley lawmakers, DHR Health leaders, and Starr County elected and appointed officials for the project in Rio Grande City.
“I know Alonzo (Cantú) and DHR are involved,” Patrick said. “Elected leaders, the chambers, people from both parties, elected officials who really work for this region and every region are important, whether it is East Texas, or the Panhandle, or West Texas, or our big cities.
“The Valley must be just as strong as the city of Houston or Dallas or West Texas or anywhere,” he emphasized.
Cantú, a co-founder of DHR Health, also serves on the Board of Regents, The University of Houston System. In April 2022. he 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.
DHR Health was the original teaching hospital for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 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 as of September 8, 2021, the first 24/7 Designated Level One Trauma Center south of San Antonio.
A Level One Trauma Center is a hospital equipped and staffed to provide care for patients suffering from major traumatic injuries that result from falls, motor vehicle collisions, knife or gunshot wounds, or other catastrophes that threaten a person’s life or limbs.
On Tuesday, November 16, 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.
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.
The Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley represents a combined investment of more than $105 million. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley will operate with more than 500 employees, creating significant economic impact and new job opportunities for clinical, ancillary and support staff in the Valley.
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 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.
“You know in government there are a lot of things that get a lot of attention,” Patrick said. “But the real work is really beneath all of the headlines and the interviews. It is on projects like today that can impact people’s lives.
“This project was brought to me with a number of other recommendations for the region. And it looked like this was the one where we would get the most bang for the buck and help the most people,” the lieutenant governor said. “Because it was time for the citizens of Starr County and the region to have a laboratory that they had not had before.”
Patrick pointed out that Texas Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 8 in mid-October 2021, which provided $16.7 million to the Texas Department of State Health Services for upgrading existing laboratory facilities associated with a Level One trauma facility in Hidalgo County and a new laboratory infrastructure in Starr County, along with infrastructure to improve medical access in Starr County, along with the infrastructure to improve medical access in Starr County.
“And so this funding, which is not an insignificant amount of money that we put in the bill was supported by all 31 senators – that is 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats,” Patrick reported. “(They) all came together for Starr County and for this project.”
Patrick singled out Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Rep. Ryan Guillén, R-Rio Grande City, for their legislative efforts in helping secure the almost $16.7 million in state funding for the Starr County medical improvement project.
“I want you to know that Ryan Guillén could not be here. He is a great member. And I want you to know that your two senators – I know both of them do not cover the area but they work together – (Juan) Chuy Hinojosa and Eddie Lucio, who is retiring,” he said. “They really work hard for the Valley. So, I am honored to be here. It is a great day. It is a great day for me to see things that we do in the budget that really change lives and are really impactful to the community.”
Starr County is in the legislative district of Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
Much of Hidalgo County stretching northward to Corpus Christi in Nueces County are in Hinojosa’s legislative district, while Lucio – who is retiring effective early January 2023, has some of Hidalgo County, and all of Cameron and Willacy County in his Senate District.
Rio Grande City, which is the county seat for Starr County, is served by Guillén.
Successes for any region of the state is good for Texas, Patrick emphasized.
“Elected leaders, the chambers, people from both parties, elected officials who really work for this region and every region is important, whether it is East Texas, or the Panhandle, or West Texas, or our big cities,” he said. “Our economy is much larger than that of Russia.”
If it were a country, Texas would be the 9th largest economy in the world, ahead of Australia, Mexico, Spain and Russia.
“You see, Texas is the true leader of the world,” he proudly proclaimed.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Patrick began his career as a radio and television broadcaster.
But he said he was familiar with the Rio Grande Valley, and suggested that the paths taken by him and his wife, Jan Rankin, in many ways are similar to the life’s journeys, hard work and successes of Valley residents.
“We used to come down to the Valley to visit. Sometimes to go across the border, we would shop here. I just loved the culture, I loved the food, I loved the people,” Patrick said.
“Today, before we flew down here this morning, I said to Jan – we’ve been married 47 years, so it is long time – I said to Jan, when we moved here in 1979 with basically a television career, never thinking about government or politics,” he continued. “In your wildest dreams did you ever think one day I would be getting on a plane to go to the Valley to open a great medical facility as the lieutenant governor of Texas?”
He said what Texans deserve most are a quality education, quality healthcare, and to be safe in their communities.
“Give us a good education so we can live the American Dream and build a career and get the job we want. Go into the profession we want to pursue, and the Valley has done a great job…coming a long way in the last ten or 20 years,” Patrick continued. “This is rich in heritage, this region of the state. I love coming down here and I am glad I was able to play a small part in this. But, we are always going to be looking to make Texas as strong as we can.”
Starr County Judge Eloy Vera on DHR Health medical development: “This is really a guardian angel looking out for us.”
Among the numerous elected and appointed leaders in Starr County who participated in the groundbreaking ceremony last summer for the 40-acre DHR Health medical development center being built in Rio Grande City was longtime Starr County Judge Eloy Vera.
“This is really a guardian angel looking out for us,” he said of the complex, scheduled to be completed later this year. “So, this project goes beyond the economic development that it’s going to bring to our region. The jobs it is going to create. The monies that are going to be invested. This project is the future of Starr County.”
Vera, whose views came on Thursday, June 30, 2022, was joined by Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal, Adrian Guerra, MD, Member, Board of Directors, Starr County Memorial Hospital, and Manish Singh, MD, FACS, FASMBS, Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health.
The three area leaders were on hand to provide background on what led to the DHR Health project, with Singh introducing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as the keynote speaker.
Vera’s remarks follow:
Thank you so much. I promise I will be brief. Good afternoon and thank you all for taking time to be here with us.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Dr. Singh, Mr. Alonzo Cantú, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen. It gives me great pleasure and it is truly an honor for me to be here addressing such an outstanding group of people in Starr County.
We thank you all for taking time to come and visit with us and for all that you have done for our community. This morning, as I was putting thoughts together as to what I could talk about today, without being repetitious of what other people, I am sure, are going to talk about – the economic benefits, the actual construction that will happen, and so forth – as I was reminiscing I thought about something that happened 27 years ago.
I had hair and it was black.
Anyhow, all kidding aside, back then I was a county engineer for Starr County under the administration of the commissioners court, of County Judge JoeMartínez. Commissioner Garza was also on the commissioners court.
But, anyhow, our poverty was through the roof, unemployment was at 35 percent. So, the commissioners court tried to do everything possible to get a prison built in Starr County. The state had gone out for proposals for three prisons. So we thought, we will throw our hat in the ring.
When the time came, the day the leadership in Austin were going to come down and look at our proposal, the judge asked me to go to our airport and pick up some of our people that were coming. So I did.
I was fortunate enough that one of the persons in my vehicle was the lead for the group of people that were coming down here to Starr. And as we were driving to the courthouse for a meeting they asked several questions, but three of them in particular.
One of them, they asked, is there opposition for the prison? And I said, there is some. We have a handful of people that have voiced their opinion that they are against it. But it is very minimal. His answer was, well, that is okay. I mean there will aways be people that don’t like what you are doing or don’t agree with what you are doing. And his words were, I believe, “that there will be opposition for the second coming of the Lord. So, if we have a little bit of opposition, it is not a problem.”
Second question that he asked was education. Education opportunities for the employees because they were going to bring in about a thousand employees. At that time I was on the school board in Roma and I was very proud of that. And I said, our school districts are excellent.
The Rio Grande City school, San Isidro and Roma continue to put out excellent students from their facilities. And he says, “What about higher education?” And I said, well, we are deficient. The only thing we had at that time was Pan American (University) that would offer classes at the high school in their classrooms. And there were also just four or five classes. There was no online training or anything like that, back then. So, he did not like that but I guess that was okay.
The third question was what medical opportunities or services to you have for our employees? And I said, well, South Texas Memorial Hospital, I feel does a tremendous job with the resources that they have. We don’t have a lot of resources because we are a low-income county.
But, nevertheless, we try to do the best we can. And he said was, well, one of the things that we noticed is that your ratio of doctors to population is very poor. And I said, yes, sir, it is because we have a difficult time attracting doctors into our community.
He said, what about specialty clinics? And I said they need to go to McAllen, we don’t have any. He says, well, what happens if you have a major accident or someone has a heart attack or a stroke? I said, from my understanding they go into our hospital, they do the best they can to stabilize them and if they are in serious condition they transport them to the Valley.
I could tell he did not like my answer at all. Needless to say, we did not get the prison. So, this project goes beyond the economic development that it’s going to bring to our region. The jobs it is going to create. The monies that are going to be invested. This project is the future of Starr County. Now we have all these facilities.
The education facilities that STC (South Texas College) has in our community are second to none. UTRGV (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) has brick and mortar in our community. Our hospital has done a tremendous job with recruiting doctors and also, with a partnership, with DHR that have partnered with our hospital and now we have some specify. But this is beyond all that. So, for us, this is unheard of. This is really a guardian angel looking out for us. So, having said that, I do want to thank everyone that had anything to do with this project, getting it accomplished. The industrial foundation,
Rose (Benavídez) and her staff have worked countless hours.
(Benavídez, who is President, Starr County Industrial Foundation, also serves as Chair, Board of Trustees, South Texas College.)
The Rio Grande City EDC, they have also put in a lot of hours. The cities, Rio Grande City, I mean, they have really gone into bat for this project. And, of course, the hospital, our Starr County Memorial Hospital. So, all them, I thank them.
But I do want to give special thanks to some individuals. One of them, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Thank you so much, lieutenant governor. He literally championed the bill to get passed by the Legislature so that we could get part of the funding for this project. If that had not happened we might not be here today. So, we sincerely thank you.
Also, Dr. Singh and Mr. (Alonzo) Cantú. Their partnership with Starr County has never wavered. I mean, they have been there for any and all things we have needed and we thank you both, and your administration for everything that you have done for Starr County. You all have been excellent partners with us. So we sincerely thank you for that.
Again, if I forgot to thank anyone, please forgive me. But, you know who you are that contributed and we thank you. Our local medical community. I see some of our doctors here. You know, they also helped tremendously to get this project on board. So, again, thank you.
Welcome to Starr County and I hope you have a good afternoon. Thank you.
(The video of the enter groundbreaking ceremony is available online at:
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