The number of children’s hospitals in Austin is set to double in the next three years.
Texas Children’s Hospital plans to open a women’s and children’s hospital in Austin during the fourth quarter of 2023. It will be in North Austin at North Lake Creek Parkway and Texas 45.
The $450 million project is expected to be 360,000 square feet with 48 beds and room to expand on the site.
With this new hospital, Austin will grow in 10 years from one children’s hospital to four. It’s part of the growth story of Central Texas, which now is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to have 2.2 million people in the metropolitan area and have grown by 29.76% since 2010. That’s the biggest growth among the largest 100 metropolitan areas.
Michelle Riley-Brown, executive vice president of Texas Children’s Hospital, said they wanted to offer Austin families "more depth and breadth" and "even more access to health care."
It will be Texas Children’s first hospital outside of the Houston area, where it operates the main location and two other branches.
The hospital will provide emergency care, neonatal intensive care, pediatric intensive care, operating rooms, a sleep center, an epilepsy monitoring unit, and labor, delivery and postpartum care. An urgent care location also will be on-site.
"We intend to be full spectrum," Michelle Riley-Brown said.
The details of what level of trauma center the new Austin hospital will have and which specialties it will bring are still being worked out, but Texas Children’s plans to bring services that it is nationally known for such as pulmonology, gastroenterology and neurology, she said.
Texas Children’s entered the Austin market in 2018 with an urgent care center in South Austin on Westgate Boulevard and a specialty care center off MoPac Boulevard and Steck Avenue. Texas Children’s also has opened seven pediatric practices around Austin.
Texas Children’s bought the land for the new hospital in December along with a site in South Austin, which is north of Puryear Road and west of Interstate 35 by Texas 45. Plans for that site have not yet been determined.
Texas Children’s estimates the new hospital project will bring 400 new jobs to Austin in addition to the 84 employees and 25 physicians it already has here.
Earlier this month, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas announced it would build a second hospital at the 183-A tollway and Avery Ranch Boulevard, two miles from the new Texas Children’s Hospital.
That hospital will be 135,000 square feet with 36 beds and a possible expansion to 100 beds. It is expected to open in November 2022 with emergency care, pediatric intensive care, two operating rooms, endoscopy and procedure rooms, and sleep labs. It’s a $191.8 million project, with a 60,000-square-foot medical office building onsite.
Already in North Austin at Parmer Lane and MoPac Boulevard, St. David’s Children’s Hospital has 57 beds, emergency care, intensive care, operating rooms, and radiology. It opened in 2014 and is attached to North Austin Medical Center.
The new Dell Children’s and St. David’s Children’s Hospital are both Level III trauma hospitals. Dell Children’s main campus at Mueller Boulevard in East Austin is a Level I trauma center for the most serious cases. It opened in 2007 after first having a wing at the former Brackenridge Hospital and then the Children’s Hospital of Austin next to Brackenridge.
Dell Children’s has since added towers as well as a mental health in-patient unit and a new cardiac care unit. In April 2021, it is adding a $113 million specialty pavilion with a fetal medicine center and expanding neurology, oncology and cardiology programs there. In December 2023, Dell Children’s plans to open a fourth tower, which will add 72 beds to the 214 it currently uses. That’s a $209 million project.
Both Dell Children’s and Texas Children’s have been studying Austin growth for a few years, launching expansions in North Austin first and then considering future projects in South Austin.
"We wanted to increase access to meet the anticipated needs of Austin," Riley-Brown said.
Dell Children’s and Texas Children’s have some shared history. Many of the leaders of Dell Children’s, including President Christopher Born and Dr. Charles Fraser Jr., head of the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, came from Texas Children’s in recent years.
Riley-Brown said there might be opportunities for collaboration among the three hospital systems. If a patient needs to be transferred from the new Texas Children’s Hospital in Austin to a more specialized level of care, the hospital will do the best for that family, whether that means transferring to the main Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston or to Dell Children’s across town.
"We’ll always do what’s right for the patient and the family," Riley-Brown said. "We’ll collaborate where necessary."
Having multiple children’s hospitals in multiple hospital systems in one city or geographic area can work well. The American Children’s Hospital Association wouldn’t comment specifically on the Austin situation, but it points to Ohio, where six children’s hospitals formed a network. They have collaborated on research on pneumonia, child abuse and asthma. They also advocate as one voice for child health issues at the state Capitol.
Austin won’t be the only Texas city with multiple children’s hospitals. The Dallas-Fort Worth area has three children’s hospitals and a specialty hospital. Houston has seven hospitals among two systems, although three do not exclusively treat children, as well as a specialty hospital. El Paso has two, and San Antonio, which has a similar metropolitan population as Austin, also has two.
"We knew Austin was growing, and we intend to build this hospital with that in mind," Riley-Brown said. "We love the Austin community. We're so excited to be there with the services we have now, and for women and children in the future."