Harris County Expands Medical Services

The Harris County Hospital District is breaking ground on two new clinics. Those clinics are just the beginning of a multi-year multi-million dollar expansion. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Over the next three years, the Harris County Hospital District will spend $158 million on a facilities expansion program. It's starting with the construction of two primary care clinics, one in Alief and the other, the MLK Health Center, in near south Houston.

"Healthcare is a major issue in this community and nobody really thinks about it until there's an absence of healthcare."

That's David Lopez, CEO of the Hospital District. He says the healthcare crisis is very nearly out of control. So the District is undertaking its largest expansion project in nearly two decades, focusing on primary preventive care and specialist services. To do that, the District is transforming the MLK Health Center, which is currently squeezed into some space at the Quentin Mease Community Hospital. They're building a $13.5 million dollar facility with room for an additional 37,000 patient visits annually. Fadine Jackson Roquemore is one of the community members who served on the advisory council for this project. She says one of their main priorities was accessability both in terms of location and room for more patients.

"The area has a number of older people, which means there will be less distance they have to travel because of bus and some of them are on MetroLift. And there are children because older people now have to care for grandchildren. And so this is a wonderful location."

Lopez says the district is focused on reducing hospital visits because it costs on average 25 times more to treat someone at a hospital versus an outpatient clinic visit.

"If we don't take care of our population on a primary care basis then they may not have access to healthcare and then they'll show up in the emergency rooms at a lot higher expense, probably with much more system involvement. So primary care is a really good preventative strategy for avoiding costly hospitalizations."

And the new clinics are just one element of the plan to provide better care. The district also has plans for an $83 million clinical tower and parking garage and a $28 million expansion of the emergency room at LBJ Hospital. Those projects should be complete in about three years. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.


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