Texas Health hospital opens in far north Fort Worth

FORT WORTH -- Emergency trips to the hospital in north Fort Worth could be shorter starting today with the opening of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance.

The average emergency medical trip could be reduced by 15 to 20 minutes, said Matt Zavadsky, MedStar spokesman. That's compared to trips from north Fort Worth to hospitals in Grapevine, North Richland Hills and downtown Fort Worth, Zavadsky said. The average time spent, starting when emergency personnel receive a call to the time when they are available for another call, is 69 minutes in that area, Zavadsky said.

But shorter travel times are not a given. Other factors must be considered.

The new hospital is located at Golden Triangle Boulevard near Old Denton Road and Interstate 35W and is only 3.5 miles outside Keller's city limits, said Steven Palmer, the Keller battalion chief for emergency medical services.

Golden Triangle Boulevard is under construction and only one lane in each direction is open to traffic, Palmer said. Once the construction is complete, the travel time will change, Palmer said.

"When the traffic is backed up in both directions there's no place for us to go," Palmer said. "There have been times that I've driven that stretch of road in my own personal vehicle when it's taken five minutes to get where I'm going and there have been times because of the traffic when it's taken 30 minutes to get to the same place."

The Golden Triangle Boulevard project, which stretches 3.4 miles from Interstate 35W to U.S. 377, is expected to be completed by February, said Val Lopez, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Transportation.

Patients and emergency service providers can use Heritage Trace Parkway and Old Denton Road in some situations to avoid the construction, said Winjie Miao, Alliance Hospital president.

"From this area to downtown Fort Worth is about 15 miles," she said. "That drive can take anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour if you get stuck in traffic. That's an hour to come here and an hour to get back. That's two hours of not responding to other calls."

The new 50-bed hospital will draw residents from Northeast Tarrant County and the new developments along the Interstate 35W corridor, said Wendell Watson, Texas Health Resources spokesman.

The hospital cost more than $100 million to build and encloses 188,000 square feet. It has 24 medical-surgical beds, 12 intensive care beds, 14 post partum beds, an eight-bed level 3 neo-natal intensive care unit and three operating suites, Watson said.

But "not all patients will be able to go to THR Alliance," Zavadsky said. "Acute heart attacks, acute strokes and multisystem trauma patients will need to be transported to facilities that have the capability to manage those patients."

Heart attack and stroke patients who may require catheterization will be taken to a hospital that has that capability, Zavadsky said. The Alliance hospital does not provide the cardiac catheterization procedure, Zavadsky said. Patients with multiple organ or multiple system failure due to trauma will also be taken to other hospitals.

"People need to know that even if there's a hospital around the corner from them that may not be the hospital that we take them to due to protocol," Zavadsky said.

Population growth spurred the new hospital's establishment. Between 2000 and 2010, the north side-Stockyards area and the Alliance Corridor added 82,665 people.

The ER at Alliance, an emergency facility at Interstate 35W and North Tarrant Parkway that is affiliated with North Hills Hospital, is another option for EMS providers. But the Texas Health Resources facility is the only general hospital in the immediate area and there are services available there that an emergency department cannot provide, Miao said.

"We knew there was an unmet need," she said. "The Metroplex area is still growing and the Alliance area is the fastest growing area in the Metroplex. We're hoping to grow with the community and add services as we see they are needed."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3