Starr County healthcare access increasing

County hospital further expands deal with DHR

Dr. Jose A. Vazquez, board president of Starr County Memorial Hospital, delivers remarks Wednesday during the announcement in Rio Grande City. (Berenice Garcia | The Monitor)

RIO GRANDE CITY — The amount of healthcare services available in Starr County is expanding — with the hope of more to come — through a partnership between the Starr County Memorial Hospital and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance made public Wednesday.

The Starr County hospital and DHR Health formally announced their partnership that will allow Starr County residents to have more access to doctors and receive specialized services without having to travel to Hidalgo County.

Through the collaboration, the two hospitals implemented contracts that place about six physicians at the Starr County hospital for emergency services and three physicians for hospital services.

“They have provided exceptional bedside care for 400 patients since they started,” said Thalia H. Muñoz, the CEO and administrator for Starr County Memorial Hospital.

Before the agreement, the doctors who would admit a patient into the hospital would be their primary care physician who, most of the time, would be busy at their own practices.

“Now, by having a hospital service, you have 24/7 coverage in-house,” said Dr. Cruz Alberto Bernal, who specializes in family medicine. He added that now the hospital will have access to more specialists.

The collaboration between Starr County Hospital Memorial Hospital and DHR Health is nothing new.

Previously, the two entities had already reached an agreement about five years ago for surgical services which places physicians and surgeons at the hospital on rotation and by which they provide outpatient services at a nearby clinic.

Since the surgical services contract was implemented, physicians there have performed a wide spectrum of operations such as hernias, breast cancer surgeries and other complex surgeries according to Dr. Ricardo Martinez, the assistant trauma medical director for DHR.

“We would like to continue to bring better health care in terms of more complexity,” Martinez said. “Being able to take care of more complex procedures.”

Plans are in place to provide more OB-GYN services at the hospital but also more cardiology, pulmonology, and neurology services through the use of telemedicine — a way of providing health services remotely.

Discussions and negotiations over the new contracts lasted the better part of the last three years, according to Dr. Jose A. Vazquez, president of the Starr County Memorial Hospital board.

“Finally, today is the day where we are proud to announce that this affiliation has already taken shape and is in full force,” Vazquez said.

“This makes perfect sense for us to join with Starr County,” Martinez said. “We wanted to transform health care in the Edinburg/McAllen area so that our patients didn’t have to leave the area. We want to help you do the same.”