HARLINGEN – Do you dread going to the emergency room because you may have to wait several hours for anyone to see you?
If that’s your concern, you’re not alone, and the Harlingen Medical Center wants to shorten the wait time at its emergency room.
Yesterday morning, the hospital at 5501 S. Expressway 77, broke ground on the expansion of its ER. The crowd which had gathered for the occasion included Harlingen city commissioners, school teachers, and hospital staff.
“I think they’re opening up the ER because so many people use it,” said City Commissioner Victor Leal. “I think the expansion is great for the creation of more jobs.”
Brenda Ivory, president and CEO of the hospital, thanked everyone for coming. The expansion will more than double the size of the ER. The current facility covers 7,061 square feet and the expansion will add an additional 14,800 square feet. This will increase the size of the ER to 21,861 square feet.
“This will be a major expansion which will allow us to better meet the needs of our growing community,” Ivory said. “It will allow us to serve more people with the care our patients have come to expect from Harlingen Medical Center.”
The expansion will be completed in 22 months, she said. The work will cost between $9 million and $15 million. It will also allow for the expansion of several departments, including the cardiovascular center and the radiology and imaging department. The operating room will also have more space. These additional expansions will add up to an extra 12,000 square feet.
The hospital is one of the city’s largest employers, said Mayor Chris Boswell.
“HMC is one of our greatest corporate citizens,” he said. “It’s one of our strongest supporters of charitable causes. This expansion will be of great economic benefit to our community with high-paying jobs.”
HMC has a special place in the heart of State Rep. Eddie Lucio III.
“My daughter was born here,” he said. “Quality care is a blessing for all of us. I want my daughter to be whatever she wants to be.”
The first reason people gave for the expansion was overcrowding, a chronic problem at ERs across the country. Harlingen is no different, as City Commissioner Ruben De La Rosa learned Friday night. His wife had been injured in some sort of accident and he brought her to the ER. People awaiting treatment were lined up on the floor and the hallways.
Dr. Michael Mohun, medical director and trauma director of the ER, said overcrowding has been a persistent problem in providing everyone with adequate care.
“It’s a huge frustration,” he said. “Many people use it as a clinic. It’s important that everybody has access to health care.”
People come to the ER for many reasons. Some may be brought in for head injuries suffered in a traffic accident. Others may seek treatment for a broken finger because no other medical care is available.
“Many people don’t have access to health care,” Mohun said. “They don’t have insurance or they may be illegal.”
Soon, with the additional space, HMC’s emergency room will staff enough nurses so they can attend to anyone seeking help.
They may have internal injuries from a car accident.
They may be suffering a heart attack. Or perhaps one of our recent immigrants, lacking documentation, may find a place to bring her baby – all hopefully without a wait.