Northwest Austin lacked options for pediatric care. Now, it has two children's hospitals.
Families in the North Austin area now have another option to seek medical treatment for their kids: Texas Children’s Hospital North Austin. Outpatient services at the hospital’s onsite pediatric clinic opened on Monday, and inpatient hospital services are set to begin on Feb. 20.
The flagship Texas Children’s Hospital located in Houston is the largest children’s hospital in the state. Texas Children’s Hospital North Austin is the hospital chain’s first Central Texas campus, joining more than 20 outpatient clinics Texas Children’s operates in the region.
The 52-bed women’s and children’s hospital is joined with a 170,000-square-foot outpatient building. The campus includes neonatal, cardiovascular and pediatric intensive care units; a sleep center; an emergency room and an urgent care center. It is also a stone’s throw away from a new, affiliated women’s clinic that offers obstetric and gynecologic care.
Russ Williams, senior vice president of Texas Children’s Hospital North Austin, said the hospital’s site near the intersection of Highways 45 and 183 was selected for its proximity to rapidly growing neighborhoods in the Austin metro area.
“We [considered], ‘Where are they building new schools? Where are young families moving to?’ And we felt at least for our first hospital [in Central Texas] that North Austin was where we could do the greatest amount of good, bring care closer to the greatest amount of children,” Williams said at a grand opening event for the hospital on Feb. 1.
Texas Children’s is not the only hospital system that has invested in the North Austin area. Less than 10 minutes down the road is Dell Children’s Medical Center North Campus, which opened in April last year. That facility followed the primary Dell Children’s campus located in the Mueller area, which opened in 2007 as the first freestanding children’s hospital facility in Austin.
Both Texas Children’s and Dell Children’s North provide closer access to pediatric specialty services for residents of the bustling North Austin suburbs, including Cedar Park and Round Rock, along with Georgetown and Leander, both of which are among the top five fastest-growing cities in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The northern communities are expanding very widely, very quickly, and I would say that one of the biggest populations growing at this time is the children,” said Cathy Heckenlively, the chief administrative officer for Dell Children’s North, last spring.
For many suburban residents, the addition of Dell Children’s North shortened the length of time it takes to get to an emergency facility outfitted for children's needs considerably.
Natalia Yagur, a data analyst and mother of two living in Cedar Park, said it takes her just five minutes to get to Dell Children’s North. She said she was able to see a doctor within 15 minutes of walking through the hospital’s doors in October when her infant son had an urgent medical issue.
Yagur said their proximity to a children’s hospital was a relief — but she was surprised to see a similar facility, Texas Children’s, pop up down the road so soon.
“I was shocked to see them so close; it’s literally just a few intersections away,” Yagur said. “I would think it’s logical to have it in a different part of town and keep those things a little bit spread out for other families.”
Russ Williams, however, said he expects there to be plenty of demand for a second hospital dedicated to children in the area. Over the past decade, Texas Children’s reports that some 30,000 patients from Austin have sought care at their flagship hospital in Houston — too many kids, Williams said, were having to leave their community to access the care they needed.
“The colleagues that we have in Houston can now come over [to Austin] to be able to do some of the most cutting edge fetal surgery, some of the most cutting edge neurosurgery — that really, really high-end care,” Williams said.
Ellen, who wanted to go by her first name only for privacy reasons, said she welcomes the opportunity to use both Dell Children’s and Texas Children’s, especially for hard-to-access specialty care for her two toddlers.
“We've used specialists for both kids and waits months to over a year are common. It's terrible, so I'm hoping our kids and others will have better access to health care. It's particularly challenging with younger kids, as not all pediatric specialists see them,” she wrote in a message to KUT.
Future expansion opportunities
Texas Children’s Hospital North Austin has room to add capacity to its campus if and when demand presents itself, according to Williams. The hospital chain also has its eye on growth opportunities in South Austin. It opened a pediatric clinic in Kyle this year, and it already owns a 24-acre site near the Manchaca community that could be used for a future hospital. Austin City Council voted to annex that property into Austin in 2022.
Though Texas Children’s has yet to make any formal announcements about the South Austin property, Texas Children’s CEO Mark Wallace implied at the grand opening event for Texas Children’s Hospital North Austin that a second Austin campus could be in the works.
“When I get done with this I’m gonna build a second one in South Austin,” Wallace said. “But I’ll tell you more about that later.”