In March, Bexar County commissioners allocated millions to a public health division that would expand affordable health care into unincorporated areas of San Antonio.
On Friday, that partnership was publicly announced, accomplishing the first step on a path to extending access to affordable health care and clinical services to residents in Southern Bexar County.
University Health, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and the Texas A&M Health Science Center signed an affiliation agreement to expand health services to the medically underserved area. The partnership will include a health clinic, a community hospital and a medical office building.
The facilities would be built on approximately 68 acres proximal to TAMU-SA campus at the corner of South Zarzamora and Jaguar Parkway, south of Loop 410 — an area that is developing rapidly.
The nearly $500 million investment in the hospital, and new University Health Institute of Public Health will serve residents in South Bexar County and the 22 neighboring counties in South Texas. In addition, The Texas A&M System Board of Regents approved funding to build a $45 million College of Education and Public Health facility at A&M-SA.
Infrastructure for the facilities will be partly funded by $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act money Bexar County commissioners allocated earlier this year, and partly by University Health.
In March, Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez described the area as a “public health desert.”
While University Health has existing mobile health units it will use in the area in the immediate term, current projections estimate the hospital would open in 2027 and that smaller clinical facilities would open before that time.
The partnership announcement last week “was really a capstone to publicly [sharing] all the work that has been done to establish the overarching affiliation agreement,” said Bryan Alsip, chief medical officer at University Health. “That now allows us to work together to come up with a framework for those more specific definitive agreements and planning steps.”
“Unfortunately, public health access is not equal across the county,” said George B. Hernández Jr., University Health president and CEO, in March. “Certain areas of unincorporated Bexar county need additional support.”
While the clinics and hospital won’t offer lower rates for uninsured or low-income residents, Alsip said the University Health runs CareLink program, designed to provide services for uninsured and underinsured Bexar County residents.
“The benefit will extend to people in that southern part of the county, just like it would in the north or the west. It does now in the sense that some of those patients come up to our facilities [and] our clinics throughout the county, and many we serve in our hospitals. Those same services will be a lot better, we think, when they’re provided closer to home and the neighborhoods in which people live,” Alsip said.
Alsip added the partnership will expand medical education opportunities for TAMU-SA students through the TAMU Health Science Center based in Bryan-College Station.
“They have opportunities that we could work with them on for community health and rural health as a degree offerings, providing real life training for that in addition to our designated institute for public health,” he said.
University Health currently has four school-based health clinics in independent school districts in southern Bexar County, Alsip said, and plans on expanding those clinics through the partnership.
“There’s a need now where we don’t have the density of physicians and health care facilities in the southern part of Bexar County as much as we do in the northern part,” Alsip said.
“In one way, we’re trying to equalize that by providing more facilities, more staff, more services, but we also know that those areas of our community are probably going to grow, and so we want to be ahead of a lot of that growth.”