The El Paso Specialty Hospital, once a thriving orthopedic medicine center on what’s known as Pill Hill, has been sitting vacant since its abrupt and surprising closure in December, but it won’t be idle much longer.

Tenet’s Hospitals of Providence health care network has leased the former 16-bed hospital and plans to reopen it before the end of the year as El Paso’s first spine and pain specialty hospital.

It is the latest move in El Paso by Tenet Healthcare, the city’s largest private health provider, which operates four major hospitals and two microhospitals in the El Paso area, as well as a long list of medical centers.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a while,” said Rob Anderson, CEO of Providence’s Sierra Campus. “It’s been vacant for six months. We asked ourselves, does this make sense?

“We did our due diligence and looked at the research for the community of El Paso, and decided it’s really the right thing to do.”

The formal name will be The Hospitals of Providence Spine & Pain Management Center, and the coming months before opening will involve re-equipping the facility and passing state and federal licensing requirements.

“There’s a lot of newer technologies and new stuff that people can do for their back, hips, knees and shoulders,” Anderson said. “Most of it’s going to be same day.

“So you come in, do a surgery, you recover and then you’re going home. Or, you’re going to that next level of care. There will be some overnight stays over there, which is what was done there before.”

There will be no other place quite like it in El Paso.

“There are surgical centers that do surgery,” he said. “There are pain management centers that all do injections. But there’s nothing in El Paso that provides the patient with all of that at one location.”

Dr. Carlos Omar Viesca, who anchored the former specialty hospital with the only full-time office there, will return with his associates, Drs. Patricia Lopez-Po and Janet Lee.

“That’s where we had our offices for 10 years,” Viesca said. “To me and for my patients, it means a lot because of the status it had in the community. We grew it and were in great shape until the day it closed.”

Not only is Providence reviving the former hospital building but it also picked up a number of the orthopedic physicians who built and ran it, keeping them in El Paso.

“Now what we’re proud of is, one, the ability to open up that center because it did have a name,” Anderson said. “Second, is that we saw the jobs and positions of the orthopedic surgeons and some of the pain management providers going away.

“We kept them here in El Paso.”

He said they expect the new center should create 60 to 65 jobs.

Specialty hospitals, big and small, are part of a trend in American medicine, and the Sierra campus, which closed its maternity ward a year ago, is one of them.

“When you look at other larger cities, you will find specialized-care facilities similar to what Sierra has become,” Anderson said.

Last year, the hospital was designated as a comprehensive stroke center, providing specialized cardiac and stroke care.

“So we don’t do any deliveries here, but if a mom comes into the emergency room, which has happened, we’ll deliver,” Anderson said. “But if we can stabilize them, we’ll send them to our sister hospital, Providence Memorial, which has the highest level of care.

“Labor, delivery and the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), those were the services that didn’t make any sense to do at Sierra because Providence Children’s Memorial is less than two miles away.”

It is another example of specialization at the hospital, which is in Central El Paso.

“Our acuity level here at Sierra is super high,” Anderson said. “That means we specialize in those patients that are sicker or those that need a life-altering procedure – your knee and your hip, your shoulder or your arm that’s broken or has something wrong that you’ve got to fix.”

Last week, Sierra reached another milestone in the area of cardiology.

“We did our first transcatheter aortic valve replacement – the first private hospital in El Paso to do it,” he said. “William Beaumont has done a couple.”

It’s a procedure to replace a heart valve that does not require the usual major surgery.

“You come in, you don’t get cut open, you get a replacement of a valve, and you go home the next day,” he said. “It allows individuals to have life-changing surgery without it being super-invasive.

“Before, patients would have to go to Phoenix, Dallas or San Antonio to get those procedures done. Now you can do it here. It’s a big deal.”


Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.

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