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Hospital’s ‘amazing’ addition celebrated; Residents, officials tour Sky Tower
March 30, 2014

Twins Megan (left) and Alexis Rodriguez, 8, watch themselves on the monitors in one of the operating rooms at University Hospital's Sky Tower and ask questions during a tour. Photo by Cynthia Esparza / For the San Antonio Express-News

By David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News

Unveiled Saturday before hundreds of people, the University Health System's new 10-story Sky Tower boasts a host of gee-whiz facts that will greet the public when it opens for business in a couple of weeks.

Touted as the largest public building project in Bexar County history, the million-square-foot addition roughly doubles the existing two University Hospital buildings that date to 1968 and doubles the size of the hospital's emergency room, which long had a reputation for overcrowding.

The new emergency room includes the region's only pediatric trauma and burn center.

The Sky Tower cost $778 million, part of an $899 million system capital improvements project that included expansion of downtown's Robert B. Green campus, which opened last year. The project was funded through Bexar County revenue bonds and the University Health System's capital reserves.

"This hospital is for the poor and the rich and those in between. You own it. You're responsible for it," said James Adams, chairman of the Bexar County Hospital District board of managers. "Nobody will be turned away."

The hospital system is 23 percent funded by property taxes, with the rest coming from federal grants and fees from research projects and being the teaching hospital for the next-door University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

"This hospital exceeds our wildest expectations in size, function and beauty," said Dr. William Henrich, UTHSC president, during a ceremony serenaded by music from a Youth Orchestras of San Antonio ensemble and marked by brisk winds from a cold front.

"We now have the ability to offer first-class health care to everybody," added Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Sky Tower adds 420 private patient rooms to University Hospital, bringing the total room number to 716.

"We'll have more operating rooms than we originally planned," 35 instead of 24, said George Hernández, CEO and president of the University Health System. "That will allow future growth without adding new buildings."

Sky Tower also features three gardens, a large helipad, a parking garage and a Level 1 trauma center. In about 20 facilities, the University Health System employs more than 5,000 people, with an additional 1,000 residents, fellows and interns working there each year.

People attending Saturday's celebration took tours after the Sky Tower ribbon-cutting.

"It's very nice," said C. Garret Gutierrez. "The operating rooms are really high-tech and impressive."

"It's an amazing hospital," said Wanda Fellows. "It already is, but it's even more amazing."

 

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