DALLAS — Texas Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, outlined a 10-part, 10-year plan Tuesday to build an academic hospital and medical school at the University of Texas in Austin.
Watson, a former Austin mayor who has represented most of Travis County in the Senate since 2006, specifically said it was too early to talk about how much the proposal would cost or where the funding would come from.
“We will work diligently to be as realistic as possible about what we’ll need, and to be as conservative as possible in figuring out what it will cost,” he said during a presentation to the Real Estate Council of Austin. “But let’s not literally jump to conclusions. We have work to do even before we can properly and adequately sketch out these funding issues, let alone the resolution to them.”
The financial plan probably will include a public-private partnership for some of the facilities, he said. “We have yet to map out what will be a complex path so that we’ll be able to make the sort of investment decisions, philanthropic decisions, whatever economic decisions need to be made,” Watson said during the luncheon.
Watson has appointed a 10-member organizing committee to determine how to achieve the new medical school, advanced research facilities, and a comprehensive cancer treatment facility in the proposal.
“Every 't’ hasn’t been crossed, and every 'i’ hasn’t been dotted, but it’s time to go from incremental to transformational,” he said.
Committee members include executives of Austin-area hospitals, top officials at the University of Texas System, including chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, and political leaders such as Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Travis County Judge Sam Briscoe.
“We are going to get this done,” Cigarroa said. “We feel that Austin is deserving of a medical school.”
Watson said Austin is the second-largest city in the United States without a medical school and the only city in Texas with more than 500,000 residents without one.
Most UT medical students currently are trained at UT Medical Branch at Galveston and UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
UT officials said in 2004 that building a medical school and academic hospital in Austin would cost $1 billion to $2 billion. Kenneth Shine, UT’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs, said Tuesday that startup costs would be lower now due recent investments and upgrades to facilities by area health care systems.
Watson said the new facilities he envisions would create 15,000 permanent jobs and pump $2 billion a year into the regional economy. “This is going to be a long effort involving a whole lot of people,” he said. “But the economic and quality-of-life payoff, for Austin and all of central Texas, would be enormous.”
The proposed academic hospital would replace University Medical Center Brackenridge, the main trauma care center in Travis County.