DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — When the new Baylor Scott & White Medical Center opens 7 a.m. Aug. 3, it marks the realization of a dream that’s a decade old — even older, in some circles.
“We’ve definitely hit some bumps along the way, but it’s great that it’s finally here,” said George Russell, a former Marble Falls mayor and city manager. “If you just stopped and looked at the hospital and clinic and then looked around the rest of the state — even the country — you would see there aren’t many towns our size that have a facility like this. Especially opening one now.”
Eric Looper, the president of the Hill Country region for Baylor Scott & White, added that it’s quite an accomplishment to open a new hospital — one that will employ about 300 people once it’s fully staffed.
“This has been a long process,” Looper said. “I don’t think it helped we had a huge recession in 2008; that slowed us down.”
For Russell and other Marble Falls-area leaders, the dream of a hospital began in the early 2000s after a demographic study showed a number of people were moving out of the Highland Lakes as they aged or needed more medical care. While the Marble Falls area boasted plenty of reasons to live here, people saw a lack in some medical care.
“We were losing people. They were moving away because of medical needs,” Russell said. “That (lack of some medical services) was one leading economic deterrent in the area.
“We put together a feasibility study that determined (building a hospital and supporting it) was feasible, and we were going full force until the recession,” the former mayor said.
But things picked up economically the past several years, and the community and Baylor Scott & White pushed forward with the project. The initial Scott & White Specialty Clinic opened more than a year ago at the site located at 800 Texas 71.
Now, the community awaits the opening of the 46-bed hospital, which includes an operating room and an intensive care unit — the only one in the immediate area.
Looper said the opening of the hospital ushers in a new era in local medical care for several reasons, but two stand out.
“One of the most exciting things is labor and delivery,” he said. “We’ll be delivering babies here for the first time in Marble Falls.”
Previously, delivering a baby in a hospital meant driving to Llano or east to the Austin metropolitan area.
And the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center includes a 24-hour emergency room.
Looper described the facility as a general acute care hospital that doesn’t specialize in one thing but can do many things when it comes to medical care.
Looper called Aug. 3 a “soft opening” with the ER, labor and delivery and a few other units fully operational. He said the medical center won’t be scheduling many other surgical or outpatient procedures that day, but those soon will be at capacity.
As the first day gets closer, Russell sees the new hospital not only as a way to keep people who otherwise would move away because of specific medical needs but also as a driver in the local economy.
“I definitely feel it’s going to stimulate some growth in the area,” he said.
“A new facility like this is typically a catalyst for growth for the community, for the immediate area around the hospital,” he said. “Over the coming years, I would expect you’d see other health care services attracted to be close to us.”
But Looper added that he anticipates general population growth and other jobs created in the shadow of the hospital.
All that, however, is for the more distant future. The immediate future is focused on the opening of the new hospital.
“I guess, ‘yippee,’” Russell said regarding how he would describe his feelings about the hospital opening. “We’re going to party a bit when it finally opens.”
Go to marblefallshospital.sw.org for more information on the facility.
Staff writer Connie Swinney contributed to this story.