Harlingen's Reputation As a Medical Hub Grows As Providers Expand

By Joe Morris on May 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm EST
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As a fast-growing Harlingen strengthens its reputation as a first-class destination for both vacationers and retirees, its health-care providers are positioning themselves to meet the demand.

The city already is home to a wide variety of medical providers, from clinics, hospitals and long-term care centers to a working facility for upper-level medical students. And with major expansions taking place or planned at several sites in town, the city has become a major health-care hub for the Rio Grande Valley.

The numbers are impressive: Three of Harlingen’s largest providers – Valley Baptist Medical Center, Harlingen Medical Center and Su Clinica Familiar – employ approximately 3,500 people with an annual payroll of almost $180 million. More than 300 physicians practice in Harlingen, and each one generates at least three or four well-paying professional support jobs for his or her practice.

In addition to the facilities listed above, the city also is home to the Regional Academic Health Center, which educates third- and fourth-year medical students. Solara Hospital and Valley Diagnostic Clinic are key entities in the health-care landscape, as well. Factor in health-care-related jobs, such as home health agencies, physical therapy clinics and pharmacies, to name a few, and it’s hard to miss the local impact.

“Health care is both a quality of life and economic engine for the city,” says Mayor Chris Boswell. “We want to make sure that people understand how important it is, what the whole health-care industry does for the city’s economic vitality.”

To bring the point home to residents, Boswell made sure that the health-care industry was a major part of Harlingen 100, a multi-pronged plan for growing and developing the city’s future, keyed to the city’s 100th anniversary in 2010. And with such major developments as a major expansion to the veteran’s clinic and the city’s efforts to earn the Certified Retirement Community designation from the Texas Department of Agriculture, health care is poised to become even more important.

“By 2010, the veteran’s clinic should be handling 95 percent of all outpatient needs for the area’s veterans,” Boswell says. “And a strong, growing healthcare industry is a draw for attracting anyone to the community to live in, particularly retirees. Knowing they have quality health care – abundant health care – in a community is really very important.”

When the industry was being examined for Harlingen 100, planners pointed to nearby San Antonio as an example of what a solid health-care community can mean to a city.

“In 1960 they had nothing more than two silos and cotton fields, and they have grown a world-class medical school and health science center with a multibillion-dollar economic center for medical treatment,” Boswell says. “Harlingen has a lot more than silos and open fields to build on. We’re hoping that the synergy between the VA clinic, Regional Academic Health Center and other institutions will really catapult us into the same world-class health center.”

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