EL PASO - A project that's years in the making - and many say overdue - will be complete in a few months. Today University Medical Center unveiled part of the expansion that should cut down on emergency room wait times.
"I went to school right across the street actually at Silva Magnet School, class of 1999," said nurse manager Angel Acosta at UMC. He had plenty of opportunities after graduating from nursing school in San Antonio but something was calling him home.
"I decided to come back and nurse my community, and bring all that education and everything back to my home," Acosta said.
Being the only level 1 trauma center in a 250 mile radius, the need for UMC to expand is now more urgent than ever.
"There were nights and days where we had multiple trauma victims so we were lining them up in the hall next to each other," Acosta said.
"We outgrew the emergency department, unfortunately patient wait times are higher than they should be, but now that's all different," said CEO of UMC James Valenti. He's proud to unveil part of the expansion, a $6.7 million addition that will have more treatment rooms. That's important because so many people go to the emergency room for primary care, instead of a doctor - and partly because of our proximity to the border.
"We do receive occasionally patients coming from Mexico," Valenti said. Last year, 68 patients were rushed to UMC because of the violence in Juarez. And we don't just need hospital beds, but physicians and nurses, too.
"There's a shortage in our community so that's the purpose of the medical school, the nursing school," Valenti said, encouraging more people like Acosta to stay closer to home - where he's needed most.
"Absolutely no regrets, I'm glad to be home," Acosta said.
The last phase of the UMC expansion will be complete this October. By the time it's done, the emergency room will have doubled in size.