Next season: St. Mary Hospital to close; healthcare trends cited

Published 2:06 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Christus Southeast Texas-St. Mary hospital will close operations at 3600 Gates Blvd., Port Arthur, on or before July 18, ending 89 years of inpatient service in the Port Arthur market.

Characterizing the hospital’s business model as unsustainable, Christus Southeast Texas Health System officials said the decision to close the 229-bed facility followed years of declining numbers for the hospital in general and for inpatient care in specific.

Some 120-130 full- and part-time employees and some 25 on-call workers will be affected. In an issued statement, the hospital said it would try to place those workers in the 70-75 open positions in the Christus system. Those who cannot be placed, they said, would be offered other assistance, including severance packages.

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‘Next season’

The announcement was made Monday in the Convent Chapel. Citing Old Testament scripture from Ecclesiastes 3:1 — “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” — hospital and system leaders characterized the closure as the “next season,” with outpatient care at its Mid County facility at 365 and Ninth Avenue representing the future of healthcare delivery.

That facility is financially sound, said Paul Trevino, president and CEO of Christus Southeast Texas Health System. It will be renamed Christus St. Mary Outpatient Center Mid County.

“It’s really about keeping people out of the hospital,” Trevino said of healthcare trends regionally and nationally. “Acute care is no longer the center of the universe.”

There were no inpatients at the campus Monday, for example, not a typical daily population but not far from it, said Dr. Kevin J. Roy, who has chaired the hospital board for the last three years. He said oftentimes there are only a couple of patients staying the night at St. Mary; 98 percent of the hospital’s traffic is in outpatient, emergency care.

Ryan Miller with Christus Southeast Texas Health System makes announcement about the closing of St. Mary Hospital.
Ken sticknet/The News

Will be demolished

The campus includes three main buildings with a total of about 475,000 square feet. It opened in 1930, and hospital leaders said the infrastructure was aging and obsolete in light of healthcare trends.

“The building doesn’t fit the mission,” Trevino said.

Rather than leave an aging structure to decay, hospital leaders said the building will be demolished and hospital leaders said they would talk with city of Port Arthur leaders to see how the site might best serve the city’s needs.

Trevino said the hospital performs about $30 million a year in charitable services. That work, at the core of the hospital system’s mission, will continue.

“Since 2015, Christus Southeast Texas Health System has provided $545.3 million in charity care across Southeast Texas, with $88.1 million of that total attributed to the care specifically provided in South County in Port Arthur,” the hospital system said.

But Roy said that to provide charity care, the hospital needs paying customers, too. Those paying customers have migrated away from St. Mary’s location near the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Gulfway Drive, and closer toward the Mid County location.

The Christus Southeast Texas Maternity and Women’s Center, Christus Center for Health Management Clinic and Community Health Workers service now located at St. Mary “will be relocated and remain available to continue to serve those in Port Arthur,” Christus said in an issued news packet material.

Patients needing acute care services and facilities will have access at St. Elizabeth in Beaumont, Christus Southeast Texas said.

Paul Trevino, president and CEO of Christus Southeast Texas Health System, speaks with reporters. (Ken Stickney/The News)

Opened in 1930

St. Mary Hospital was initiated in the late 1920s when the board of Mary Gates Memorial Hospital raised the possibility with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, who had constructed hospitals and nursing schools in the area.

The Gates hospital donated equipment to the sisters; Travis Lambert donated the land on what was the Port Arthur-Beaumont Highway, the Port Arthur Centennial History said.

Most Rev. C.E. Byrne, bishop of Galveston, broke ground on the property May 17, 1929 and that June blessed the building and laid the cornerstone for a 150-bed hospital. It cost $600,000 and included five buildings. It opened May 1, 1930 with 21 patients.

The sisters opened St. Mary School of Nursing in 1930, which operated there until 1957.

The hospital added intensive care services in 1966 and a coronary unit the following year. A west wing and later a south wing pushed capacity to 278 beds in 1983.

The hospital became part of Christus Health in 1999.

Hospital officials said if services became unsustainable before July 18 they would review the timeline.


See also: Gregory has volunteered at St. Mary for 49 years