Alliance hospital nears completion

Published Friday, April 27, 2012
By Bob Buckel

OPENING SOON - Texas Health Harris Methodist Alliance Hospital is taking on a finished look as it prepares to open in September. The new facility, located just east of I-35N at Golden Triangle Boulevard, is about 15 minutes from Justin. This Justin photo by Joe Duty

Over the past two decades, a huge amount of development has taken place near Justin. From Texas Motor Speedway to Alliance Airport, the area has been a hotbed of economic activity even through a deep recession.

Infrastructure – roads, utilities, schools and other services – often struggles to catch up.

Come September, the area’s infrastructure gets a boost with the opening of Texas Health Alliance Hospital less than 15 miles from Justin.

The hospital, which is 80 percent complete, is located across I-35 at Golden Triangle Boulevard. The $99 million facility will start with 50 beds, an extensive emergency department, a level III intensive care unit and full medical-surgical services, including labor and delivery.

A hospital closer to home could mean a lot to Justin residents, most of whom now head for Denton, Lewisville, Decatur or Grapevine when they need medical care.

“Any healthcare service, in any community, is always going to be a plus,” said Ketan Patel, owner of Justin Pharmacy. “One mile, one minute, can save a life.”

Janis Thompson, owner of Mom’s Cafe and a former nurse, said the proof will be in the quality of care offered. Currently, she uses Baylor Grapevine – about 30 minutes away if there’s no traffic, 40 if there is.

“If there were one closer that had the potential to take care of you as well as they do, it would be an advantage,” she said. “Experience means a lot, and they have a wonderful team in the ER at Baylor. But that fact that they’re 30 or 40 minutes away is important, especially if you have someone who’s had a stroke or a heart attack. Every minute counts.”

Texas Health Alliance Hospital President Winjie Tang Miao said the hospital’s goal is to reach out to the surrounding communities.

“Texas Health has had a presence in north Tarrant County since two physician office buildings were opened in 2006, and we are excited about expanding these services,” Miao said. “As the health care industry begins to change, we are rethinking how we deliver care. Our goal is to provide the services our patients need in the most cost-effective and convenient way.”

CAREFUL LIFTING - Workers for Beck Construction use lifts to install the curved glass that rounds off the east face of the hospital. The front entrance is around to the right, facing Golden Triangle Blvd. This Justin photo by Joe Duty


Miao, who joined Texas Health Resources in 2006, welcomes the challenge of bringing a new hospital on-line. A team of 16 patient-involved staff members spent months doing best-practices research, visiting other hospitals and putting together a plan for the new facility. They identified collaboration among physicians and staff, the use of technology, and community involvement as key elements for the new hospital.

“We don’t want to just be a hospital,” Miao said. “We want to truly be a health-care partner – not just taking care of you when you’re sick, but helping keep you out of this facility.

“We want to reach out to employers, to help them lower benefit costs. We want to work with chambers and other organizations in this area to find out, what does Justin really need? What does Keller really need? We want to be a community health partner and only bring you here when it makes sense.”

Although it will be state-of-the-art, Miao says the hospital isn’t interested in technology for its own sake – “not just cool gadgets, but technology that really extends the abilities of our people.

“We knew that whatever we did, it wouldn’t be business as usual,” Miao said. “The building had to be flexible and respond to a very changing environment.”

FINISHING OUT - A photo of what the neonatal ICU will look like when it is finished hangs on the wall on the fourth floor of Texas Health Alliance, while workers continue to install utilities and hang sheetrock in the hallway. This Justin photo by Joe Duty


The 189,000 square-foot hospital, which broke ground in the fall of 2010, used pre-fabrication techniques in its construction, building bathrooms, air ducts and patient rooms in a warehouse while the exterior was still going up. Before the exterior walls were closed in, cranes picked up completed rooms and bathrooms and set them into place.

“That’s one reason this hospital is going up faster than most hospitals do,” Miao added.

The Beck Group is construction manager, and Perkins + Will was the architect.

The hospital’s layout puts services that need each other close to each other. For example, the 14 emergency rooms are close to the lab and radiology – services the ER often calls for. But the facility is beautiful as well as practical. Most lines are curved, including the glass-walled corridor at the front entrance that connects the hospital and the medical office building. There’s a spacious vaulted lobby with overlooks from the second floor.

There’s a chapel and meditation garden, and between the hospital and the office building will be a labyrinth, visible from about half of the patient rooms, that will feature bamboo plantings and water. It is designed to have a very Zen-like, peaceful feeling – factors research indicates can play a real part in helping release patients from pain and promote healing.

“We want to treat the whole person,” Miao said, “not just a gall bladder than needs to be removed and get you out of here as quickly as possible. We want to provide a healing, family-friendly environment.”

The patient rooms, including six labor and delivery rooms and 14 post-partum rooms, will each have a pullout sleeper sofa for family members, who will be able to order room service from a touch-screen menu, or bring in outside food.

Miao is particularly proud of the break area, where staff members can gaze out across the countryside in a light-filled, beautiful space.

“The staff makes or breaks us,” she said. “I can have a pretty building, but if everybody is mean and grumpy you’re not going to come back. We want the staff lounge to be a beautiful place. That’s one of the ways we honor our staff.”


RTLS (Real-Time Locating System) technology will be in use throughout the hospital, helping staff members locate the nearest piece of equipment when they need it, as well as track patients and each other.

“It makes things easier,” Miao said. “If someone comes to visit and you’re not in your room, the nurse can go to her computer and say, ‘Oh, he’s in therapy – it’s 30 minutes and he’s been there for 20 minutes so he should be back in 10 minutes.’ Then you know, and you don’t worry.

“It’s also helpful to find the nearest staff member to do a certain task when needed. We can even track exposure to infectious diseases – say you’re in the hospital for two days before we find out you’ve been exposed to TB. We can track everyone who’s had contact with you in that time and make sure they all get tested, and maybe stop an outbreak.”

Miao said the rooms have a digital sign that is designed to automatically update warnings like “fall risk” in real time, or let caregivers know that you’re not supposed to eat because you have surgery scheduled the next morning. It’s a smart room.

The entire hospital will be wired for wi-fi, and family waiting areas are also light and airy.

A good bit of the second floor is “shelled in” for future expansion. But it does include education classrooms for CPR and birthing classes as well as the cafeteria, which features indoor and outdoor seating and a brick pizza oven, but no deep fryer. The food will be both healthy and tasty, Miao promises.

“You’ll want to come here for lunch.”

Having a full-service hospital close by should be a boon to Justin and other area communities – not just in providing medical care, but as a boost to the infrastructure of a rapidly-growing area.

“It means everything,” said Cathy Green of Major League Realty. “When people are looking at our area, that’s one of the things they ask about. With an aging population and a diverse population, it’s great.”

Chantal Kirkland, executive director of Justin’s EDC and CDC, said the prospect is “exciting” for several reasons.

“It expands our opportunity for growth and it enhances the quality of life for the people who already live here,” she said. “It’s multifaceted. It’s not just a hospital – it’s doctors’ offices, retail, the support infrastructure that comes with a hospital. Medical development is really good for a community.”