Healthcare is expanding in West Houston. Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus is located in Wolff Companies’ Ten Oaks and MD Anderson Cancer Center is located in Central Park, also a Wolff Companies development.
By Sebastian Herrera
Katy has become a significant force in Houston’s healthcare industry because of its fast growth and favorable economy, which for years has attracted hospital establishments to the area.
And while that healthcare presence is still expanding, some hospital leaders in Katy have acknowledged that their businesses have not been invulnerable to the region’s oil downturn these past two years.
That industry outlook seems to be supported by a recent business report from the Institute for Supply Management Houston branch, which combines data such as hiring figures and sales into a number that rates whether an industry is growing or shrinking.
The current figure shows a sign of slowdown in Houston’s healthcare sector, as a recent Chronicle article pointed out.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed in Katy.
“While healthcare is driven by patients, healthcare is not immune to economic swings,” said Matthew Schaefer, vice president at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus in Katy. “So, with Houston having ties to the oil business, it certainly brings to it people that have less coverage or no coverage.”
When Texas Children’s west campus opened five years ago, it began growing by 30 to 40 percent more patients each year, Schaefer said. Now, that growth has slowed down to about 15 percent growth in patients per year.
But like other hospitals in the area, Texas Children’s has still undergone recent expansions. It added 18 beds to its acute care unit and added rooms to its preoperative, postoperative and operative units, and it has also built out shelf space on its fourth floor to expand its intensive care unit.
Similarly, Memorial Hermann Katy at the interchange of Interstate 10 and Texas 99 added dozens of beds to its hospital as it opened a new, six-story patient tower in January, according to Jim Parisi, CEO of the hospital.
The recent expansions also includes improvements to the hospital’s surgical suites, labor and delivery department, diagnostic imaging areas, intensive and intermediate care units and women’s services, along with other departments.
In the past three years, the hospital has invested more than $120 million into expansions.
West Houston Methodist Hospital, also in Katy, is spending $570 million to add six new floors and expand its capacity in emergency, surgical and diagnostic care. A second parking garage will also be built by 2017.
The developments mirror the population growth Katy is promised to keep encountering. By 2020, the area’s population is expected to expand by roughly 47,000 people to 356,422, according to the Katy Area Economic Development Council.
Still, the area’s healthcare scene isn’t exactly what it used to be.
The problems in the nearby Energy Corridor have caused a dent in an otherwise strong industry, said Gregory Chronowski, associate professor of radiation oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Katy branch.
“Katy is so oil dependent – lots of folks have lost their job,” Chronowski said. “A pace like Methodist that’s really concerned with baby deliveries, or a general hospital – those places are going to see a downturn to some degree when people lose jobs or get relocated.”
Chronowski said his building on Kingsland Boulevard isn’t as affected as other healthcare facilities because most of the patients there are over the age of 55, which he says are not as impacted by job cuts and lost healthcare coverage.
Chronowski is involved with the cancer center’s next west Houston venture: a 175,000-square-foot facility that is projected to open in the Energy Corridor in 2019. The MD Anderson center in Katy occupies 20,000 square feet.
Unlike the oil industry, healthcare doesn’t need a quick turnaround during a soft spot, according to Schaefer. Since more people will continue to arrive, hospitals have to continue thinking long term, he added.
Schaefer’s staff of more than 1,000, including about 100 medical personnel, is still growing, even if it’s at a slower rate, he said. And more patients continue to arrive, even if that pace is slower, too.
The hospital experienced 300,000 to 400,000 patient encounters last year. Schaefer said he’s paying close attention to the energy industry, which isn’t projected to rebound anytime soon. But he also said he’s not worried about the future of healthcare in Houston.
Neither does Parisi seem to be, saying Memorial Hermann will continue investing into its Katy branch.
“As a natural ripple effect of the oil & gas downturn, I think all industries have been impacted in some way,” Parisi said in an emailed statement. However, “at Memorial Hermann (Katy), we continue to grow,” he added. “There are approximately more than 6 million people in the Greater Houston region and our responsibility to the community is to continue to meet their healthcare needs.”
For the complete article, please go to: