San Antonio’s South Side is getting a major boost in women’s health services, including a new labor and delivery unit opening Monday, August 2 at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital and a more advanced level of maternity care at Texas Vista Medical Center.

The upgrades provide better access to medical care for families in this part of the city, where Mission Trail and Texas Vista are the only two full-service hospitals.

Previously, expectant mothers living on the Southeast Side and in rural communities south of Bexar County had to drive at least 8 miles to the nearest hospital to give birth. This part of town lost labor and delivery services when Southeast Baptist Hospital closed in June 2011.

Starting this week, Mission Trail will provide women’s services, including 24/7 emergency care, in a unit dedicated to prenatal, labor, delivery and postpartum care. The hospital was the first building at Brooks, a former U.S. Air Force base on the Southeast Side that’s been redeveloped for multiple uses, including offices, shopping, dining and medical education.

Mission Trail CEO Michael Cline said the continued growth in the area spurred demand for a community-based women’s program that will enable women to have their babies delivered closer to home.

On the Southwest Side near South Park Mall and Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Texas Vista Medical Center has been serving the historically underserved area for more than 40 years.

Now, the 327-bed hospital, which changed its name in March from Southwest General Hospital, has been designated a Level III maternal care facility by the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Vista officials announced last week. To earn this state designation, a hospital must be fully equipped and staffed with specialists able to treat pregnant and postpartum patients with significant medical conditions.

One of the new patient rooms in the newly upgraded Women’s Services Unit at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital. (Credit: Robin Jerstad)

“We’re the only facility on the South Side of San Antonio offering this advanced level of care for families,” Texas Vista President Jonathan Turton said. “What this means is that moms and their infants, even those with complex conditions, can expect to receive quality care right here in their own neighborhoods.”

Level IV is the highest designation. Only three of the state’s 27 facilities with this designation are in San Antonio: University Hospital, St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital and Methodist Hospital. Mission Trail’s maternal program is Level I.

Texas Vista has also earned a Level III designation for its 24-bed neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, which puts it on the same level of care as Metropolitan Methodist Hospital in downtown San Antonio.

Advanced NICU cases in the city are often sent to Level IV facilities, which include the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Methodist Hospital, North Central Baptist Hospital, St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital and University Hospital.

This summer, Texas Vista became a teaching hospital with internal medicine and psychiatric residency programs through a partnership with the University of the Incarnate Word’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Turton said these changes are part of the renewed commitment to a community that deserves it.

These upgrades are a bonus for patients like Stephanie Viera, who have long relied on the hospital for care because it was close to home.

Viera gave birth to her youngest child, Ellie Yvette Lara, three weeks ago.

Dr. Abraham Alecozay delivered all four of her children, which isn’t unusual as he has delivered more than 22,000 babies since he started his OB-GYN practice in 1995 on the South Side.

Under another new hospital partnership to create a college-going culture, Viera and Ramon Lara’s daughter received a future Palomino onesie and gift basket from Palo Alto College.

The community college’s president, Roberto Garza, who is on Texas Vista’s board, said this is part of a new Educate South initiative meant to promote the idea that education starts at birth.

“We’re telling parents that they have a child that is special who is going to do amazing things,” Garza said. “I believe that the leaders of tomorrow will begin right here at this hospital, … and they will truly make a difference in this community.”