Special Report: Hospital in the works on South Padre Island, visitors stress the need

Special Reports

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KVEO)-South Padre Island has visitors all year long, but, when an emergency happens where do these visitors go for help? That is a question many visitors on the island have.

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With spring breakers, winter Texans and visitors from across the country taking trips down to South Padre Island, many of them did not know an emergency center was not near.

Some residents expressed their concerns about potential emergencies and no hospitals nearby.

“I didn’t think about that before but now hearing that I am a little concerned,” said Daniel, another visitor at SPI.

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One visitor told KVEO there had been an instance in the past where he needed help on the island but didn’t know where to go, causing him to look for other alternatives.

“My mom she had a jellyfish stung and there wasn’t really much we can do so we had to wait, we ended up driving away but it took a while to get her help,” said Andrew Martinez, a frequent visitor of South Padre Island.  

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After an incident like that, Martinez said an emergency room is desperately needed, especially with the number of visitors the island gets every year.

“I think the island should have a hospital just in case of emergencies,” said Martinez. “I know there’s a lot of things that always happen down here and there’s not much places you can go.” 

Luckily, things are about to change for visitors and residents of South Padre Island. One local doctor has made it his mission to bring a hospital to the community of SPI.

“The 4 million visitors that come to South Padre Island every year and the approximately 2,800 permanent residents on the island will have a place that we can call our hospital,” said Dr. Richard Joe Ibarra, who will be the Chief Medical Officer for the South Padre Island Medical Center.

According to Dr. Ibarra, the hospital is being privately funded, but said it is still in collaboration with the city. His goal for the hospital, is for residents and visitors to have a place in case of emergencies. 

“Visitors don’t have to go an hour away to get medical care when their kid steps on a seashell and gets a laceration,” he said.  

Dr. Ibarra’s vision goes beyond just minor injuries, he is looking to expand the hospital with other services including a helipad. 

“Traumas that are severe we’re going to stabilize and transfer those to appropriate facilities,” he said.  

Dr. Ibarra adds residents and visitors never know when an emergency will hit the island or their families, which is why he said it’s needed now more than ever. 

The South Padre Island Medical Center is expected to open by Spring of 2022.

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