Will emergency room station be coming to Willacy?

RAYMONDVILLE — For decades, local authorities have transported critical patients to Harlingen hospitals.

In this rural farm area where leaders have dreamed of funding a new hospital for years, heart beats pound away during the long 20-mile trek.

But soon, a proposed $8 million emergency room station might be flying patients from Willacy County to regional hospitals.

South Texas Health System is proposing the so-called free-standing emergency room that would create 25 jobs at a site located on city-owned land next to the Raymondville Rural Technical Building at 700 FM 3168.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation is proposing donating five-acres of land with a total value of about $100,000 for the project.

“It would be a life-saver,” Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said yesterday. “It’s badly needed without a hospital here. If it saves one life, that’s a lot.”

The facility would staff nurses and other employees who would earn salaries averaging $28 an hour, David Gomez, the city’s EDC coordinator, said.

“For Raymondville, that’s superb,” Gomez said, referring to the proposed salaries.

In Willacy County, whose hospital closed decades ago, the high-tech ER could save lives.

The facility might also include a helicopter pad.

“There’s an urgent need,” Gomez said. “We have nothing with this capability here in Willacy County.”

Now, he said, local authorities transport patients to Harlingen hospitals for treatment.

“You lose 20 minutes,” Gomez said of the time it takes to transport patients to Harlingen.

So far, 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.

“They’re springing up all over the area,” Gomez said.

In Raymondville, the proposed $5 million, 10,000-square-foot building would include $3 million worth of medical equipment to treat patients including stroke victims.

“It’s state-of-the-art, high-end medical equipment,” Gomez said.

South Texas Health System did not respond to a message requesting comment.

Gonzales said the facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.