Warm Springs expansion to create 80 new jobs

Gabe Semenza

May 19, 2010 at 12:19 a.m.

A local health care provider announced expansion plans that include 80 new jobs.

The news offers further evidence the local medical industry continues to outpace others during this post-recession era, local business leaders said.

Warm Springs Rehabilitation System, a provider of rehabilitative care, plans to break ground in three months on a 20,000-square-foot hospital. Warm Springs' new hospital, to be next door to its 102 Medical Drive facility, will open in summer or fall 2011.

Warms Spring currently operates a 26-bed long term acute care hospital. Here, patients with lengthy physical and speech rehab needs receive treatment. Stroke patients, who need slower-paced treatment, are one example.

The new hospital will add to its service options a 30-bed hospital, which will cater to patients in need of more rigorous treatment.

"These ailments are on the rise," said Shawn Todd, Warm Springs spokeswoman. "We will be able to determine the level of care each patient needs, and then provide that service - instead of sending them elsewhere or out of town."

Other health care insiders - such as Cherie Brzozowski at Citizens Medical Center - said the news is welcome. A limited number of local inpatient rehab beds are today available, she said.

The news likely also excites recent and soon-to-be nursing graduates. Warm Springs partners with Victoria College to provide clinical sites for a new physical therapy assistant program.

Nurses will fill most of the 80 new jobs. Other hires will include physical, occupational and respiratory therapists, and those in administration.

Randy Vivian, president of the Greater Victoria Area Chamber of Commerce, estimates these new jobs will pay on average $35,000 to $40,000 a year.

"Eighty new jobs in a community like this is an extremely big deal," Vivian said. "Those are going to be skilled professionals."

Discounting chemical plants in the county, the health care, education and retail sectors drive Victoria's economy, Vivian said.

This expansion only bolsters the health care sector as a top, stable job provider, he said.

While Warm Springs still negotiates prices to build its hospital, cost estimates range between $6 million and $7 million. Future tax payments to the city have yet to be estimated.

Already, though, Warm Springs predicts it will in 2011 treat between eight and 10 additional patients a month it otherwise would have sent elsewhere. These new patients will come from as far away as Corpus Christi, Todd said.

Dale Fowler is president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp. A study conducted four years ago - the most recent such study - revealed 4,000 local medical industry employees. The sector in 2006 contributed $1 billion to the local economy, Fowler said.

"More and more, Victoria is becoming a regional medical center," Fowler said. "With this new hospital, we'll keep and draw patients. In effect, that means new money for Victoria."



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