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$30 million women's hospital project in the works for Longview

Dec. 2, 2010 at 6 p.m.

Longview could be served by a new women's specialty hospital within the next couple of years if plans for a non-profit clinic materialize.

Dianne Swank, CEO of Wellness Pointe, said Thursday her non-profit organization is in the early stages of kicking off what she hopes will be a $30 million effort to build a women's and children's hospital in Longview.

"So far we have interest from both Good Shepherd and Longview Regional," Swank said of the city's two hospitals. "We hope this becomes a joint venture between all three entities."

Swank said Good Shepherd Medical Center CEO Ed Banos is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the board of Wellness Pointe. Longview Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Kendrick has already provided a verbal commitment to the proposal, she said.

Neither Banos nor Kendrick could be reached for comment Thursday.

Michael Clark, chairman of the volunteer board for Wellness Pointe and business manager for Diagnostic Clinic of Longview, said a location had not been picked.

"We hope to start looking at sites and start a site review process soon," Clark said. Initial indications are that Good Shepherd officials would like the women's hospital located on the north Longview campus of its Institute for Healthy Living, he said.

Kendrick has offered property on Longview Regional's campus as a possible site while Swank said Wellness Pointe officials would like to see it located close to their clinic at 1107 E. Marshall Ave. Regardless where the hospital ends up, it will be serving a big need in East Texas, she said.

The new facility would include a neo-natal intensive care unit and be patterned after other successful hospitals specializing in serving women's health needs.

"It would be an economic boost to the area and would draw patients from a broad area of East Texas," Swank said. "The benefit is that women needing medical services won't be sitting in an emergency room with gunshot victims and people with strokes - from a woman's point of view it's an incredibly appealing environment."

Swank said patients of Wellness Pointe gave birth to more than 1,200 babies in 2009. That's a big chunk of the more than 2,000 babies Clark said were born locally last year.

"This is a real opportunity for the Longview medical community," he said. "While it's still in its infancy, I'm convinced it's going to be built."

Though details are sketchy and many details remain to be worked through, Clark said the proposal already has been a hot topic in the city's medical community.

"That's why we decided to go ahead and announce the plans," he said.

If the facility is built, Swank said it was possible both Longview Regional and Good Shepherd would close their maternity operations, a move that would allow them to focus on providing other types of medical services.



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