Raymondville puts down money to help land $8M ER project
By FERNANDO DEL VALLE
RAYMONDVILLE — Emergency medical services appear closer to coming to Willacy County, bringing high-paying jobs and a boost to the local economy.
City commissioners have approved $100,000 to help South Texas Health System bring an $8 million free-standing emergency room to the city.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation is dipping into its $816,000 fund balance to make the payment after the facility completes its first year of operation, David Gomez, the EDC’s coordinator, said yesterday.
As part of an agreement, South Texas Health System would create 25 jobs, with average salaries of $28 an hour, some of the highest in this farming county struggling with one of Texas’ highest jobless rates.
Now, the city is awaiting South Texas Health System’s approval, expected within about three months, Gomez said.
“The project is still under discussion and consideration but no decision has been made,” Chuck Stark, South Texas Health System’s regional vice president, stated. “Such a medical facility would bring needed services to this underserved area.”
Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said he feels “very, very positive” about the city’s chances of landing the high-tech ER.
“Everything is ready to go,” Gonzales said.
The proposed $5 million, 10,000-square-foot building would include $2.7 million worth of medical equipment.
Under the agreement with South Texas Health System, a $2.8 million annual payroll would fund 21 jobs offering average salaries of $25 an hour.
Gomez said another $100,000 would fund four doctors’ positions.
“There would be one around at all times,” Gomez said of the doctors on staff.
Decades after the area’s hospital closed, many residents rely on Su Clinica, which closes at 5 p.m. weekdays and is closed during weekends.
After hours, county residents seeking 24-hour emergency services call ambulances to rush them to hospitals at least 25 miles away.
Gonzales said the deal with South Texas Health System could save lives.
“This community needs it,” he said. “It’s priceless.”
The 25-minute drive to a Harlingen hospital can cut into precious time.
“You won’t have to wait for an ambulance to get to Harlingen,” Gonzales said. “It means quick access to being observed in an ER.”
The proposed facility’s high salaries would help boost the local economy, Gonzales said.
“A lot of people qualified for those positions are from Raymondville,” he said. “The trickle-down effect would be great. Our sales tax would go up, with employees dining here.”
In the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas Health System, operator of McAllen Medical Center and other hospitals, has opened free-standing emergency rooms in such cities as Edinburg, Weslaco and Mission.
Gonzales said he expects the facility would be completed by the end of 2019.