Methodist Stone Oak Hospital is embarking on a third expansion offering more women’s services as part of a master plan set in motion when the hospital opened in 2009.
The latest $28 million project adds another 14,000 square feet of space.
Overall, the construction is part of a 100-bed, 100,000-square-foot development of the facility at 1139 E. Sonterra Blvd, which will include four additional operating rooms.
However, hospital officials acknowledge even the latest robust addition may not sufficiently meet the needs of the region’s growing population.
“Some would argue in hindsight that we’re one expansion behind the curve,” said Marc Strode, CEO of Methodist Stone Oak. “The growth is almost as fast as you can create a resource to accommodate it.”
When the previous extension was completed last fall, the hospital’s increased capacity was immediately full. While a particularly rough influenza season was partly responsible, the strain on space continued once the flu had died down, Strode said.
“We were happy to get the 100 additional beds, but we wanted more and had to shelve plans … for more beds,” Strode said.
He hopes to get approval from Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas and HCA Healthcare, joint owners of San Antonio’s Methodist Healthcare System, for another round of add-ons.
Four more operating rooms bringing the total to 13 puts pressure on a limited number of intensive-care beds. Strode said he doesn’t want to turn away patients or doctors who prefer the Stone Oak hospital.
Most Methodist Stone Oak patients, around 75 percent, come from about 28 ZIP codes in the vicinity. The hospital also receives a significant number of transfers from rural facilities and smaller metro areas such as Del Rio and Corpus Christi, particularly for neurosurgical service.
The demand for women’s services has been especially pressing for an area containing a rising number of young families. More than 2,000 children were born at Methodist Stone Oak in 2015, which prompted the latest expansion and a previous $70 million investment, including 15 new neonatal beds.
“All the hospitals are continuing to expand,” said Ann Stevens, president of the public/private economic development organization BioMed SA. She cited increases at most of the health systems in San Antonio. “Health care is a very stable part of our economy and we have to expand (services) to keep up with the population growth.”
Additional growth plans for 2019 through 2022 include surgical oncology, a program Methodist is now actively recruiting for, and an investment in labs for identifying gastrointestinal cancers.
The latest operating rooms will be ready next summer.
Meanwhile, a freestanding, full-service emergency room, similar to Methodist’s facility in Boerne, will break ground later this year in the Bulverde/Spring Branch area near U.S. 281 at Texas 46.
Strode said they are hoping for another approval in 2019 for a new floor or several more stories on existing towers at the Stone Oak hospital. If OK’d, construction could begin next year or 2021.
Recent additions such as the operating rooms, women’s services and neonatal capacity also mean a search for workers.
Strode said a 4-year-old initiative to develop skilled nurses in-house has led to a more stable pipeline of health care workers. Now, putting more than 150 a year through the residency program has resulted in much lower turnover across the system, he added.
There’s still a short supply of operating-room technicians in San Antonio.
“It remains exceptionally difficult” to recruit new staff for some positions, Strode said.
The hospital’s master plan calls for a gradual increase as needed to 400 licensed beds, even as it adds more space for outpatient services.