St. Joseph Cuts Ribbon This Morning On An Old Hospital Brought Back To Life

The Heights Hospital originally opened on Ashland Street in 1925. 

It quit being a full-service facility in the 1990's. Then, about three weeks ago, it re-opened as St. Joseph Hospital in the Heights. And St. Joseph has been busy getting the word out.

St. Joseph CEO Patrick Mathews says a dozen primary care physicians and four specialists pooled their money and partnered with St. Joseph to bring the hospital back to what it had been.

"It took us about five years to do it.  I mean, there were a lot of complications with our parent company, which went into bankruptcy, separate from our — we were never in bankruptcy. But our current parent company, Iasis, as soon as they bought the hospital, the plan was to start moving forward with this project."

Mathews says once all the hurdles were cleared for St. Joseph to move into the rest of the space, it only took about eight months to complete the necessary work.

"The only real gut-and-redo job we did was in the ED — emergency department. Most of the hospital we were able to renovate in place."

Along with an emergency department, the hospital includes four surgical suites, and five beds for outpatient surgery. St. Joseph transferred 48 beds from downtown to the Heights. Mathews says that will help when other hospitals are too busy or full to accept new ER patients.

"I think, on Tuesday, the only hospital accepting new patients, in Houston, was St. Joseph Medical Center.  And that happens a lot."

Outside observers say St. Joseph is thinking about what kind of patients it needs to get in the door.  Ken Janda is CEO of Community Health Choice. It's a nonprofit that provides safety-net health plans. He says the Heights hospital may help St. Joseph with its bottom line.

"They actually get a lot of Medicaid and uncompensated care.  Not a lot of people with commercial insurance or Medicare go downtown for care anymore.  So, moving out to a location in the Heights where they can be more in a community that's being revitalized is a good move for them, financially, I think"

St. Joseph's Patrick Mathews acknowledges there will likely be fewer Medicaid patients at the Heights hospital, because it's not set up to deliver babies. But he doesn't anticipate a significant difference in the ratio of patients with private insurance or Medicare, versus no coverage at all. 

So could smaller, neighborhood hospitals become the next healthcare trend? Mathews says St. Joseph is looking at a similar expansion in the future.

"You know, right now, we're just strategically planning what our next step is. So there's not really a particular place picked right now."


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But Ken Janda says Houston already has a surplus of hospital beds. He thinks adding more will be tough.

"When you look at the whole landscape of Houston, the move to outpatient surgery and outpatient care and away from hospital care is going to continue. So, if anything, they'll be trading hospital beds as opposed to adding new ones."

St. Joseph will occupy about half of the Heights building. The other half has been, and will continue to be, a long-term acute care facility operated by a different company.

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