Christus health leaders, government officials, administrators and caregivers broke ground on the expansion of a clinic and new 24-hour emergency care center in Athens on Tuesday morning. Wearing construction hard hats with shovels in hand, the moment was celebrated and blessed, allowing construction teams to now begin the months-long project.

Dr. Terri Eckert, lead clinician at Christus Trinity Clinic in Athens, said the clinic is essentially doubling in size and her team is excited to expand services.

“The mission is that we extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and this is a mission that we live and practice every day,” Eckert said. “Our patients understand this and all of our providers are really committed to this.”

Gregory Freimer, lead physician of the emergency care center, said strong success has been maintained with the emergency care department, which he credited mostly to recruiting and retaining physicians who care about their communities.

“This is our community; this is where we want to work and live,” he said, “So we’re going to increase our staff to lead the emergency center here in Athens.”

He revealed preliminary reports include plans for a 12-bed ER and three to four patient care rooms.

The expansion and construction will take place where the Christus Trinity Clinic is now on Highway 19, and will feature a clinic expansion of more than 10,000 square feet. More specialty providers will be added, including those in cardiac care, orthopedics, vascular care, pain management, podiatry care, endocrinology and sleep medicine.

The new facility, which is being built adjacent to the clinic, will house new exam rooms, trauma rooms, a full-service imaging center and a laboratory for easier access to test results. The clinical staff will include board-certified emergency medicine physicians and registered nurses, as well as radiology and laboratory technicians. The new Athens Emergency Care Center will also accept ambulance traffic.

Athens Mayor Toni Clay, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony, said Christus is clear in its dedication to the Athens community. Relating to the health system’s commitment, she told a story of how her father called everyone “neighbor” even though they may not have lived near her family.

“What my dad explained to me is that the Bible tells us that everyone is your neighbor, and I think that’s something that I see Christus Trinity Mother Frances live out over and over again,” Clay said.

She also reflected on when COVID-19 vaccines first became available to seniors and the immunocompromised and thanked Christus for being there as a provider.

“I want you all to know that this expansion to me is such a clear, next step in a commitment that already shines through to this community, and I appreciate that,” Clay said.

John Trent, president of the Athens Economic Development Corporation, said quality healthcare is vital to a robust economy, and added the expansion will serve to increase the quality of healthcare in the Athens community.

Also at Tuesday’s ceremony, the land where the emergency care center and clinic expansion will sit was blessed with sprinkling of holy water and a prayer by Father Daniel Oghenerukevwe and Father Albert James Motte III.

The facility is expected to be operational around the summer of 2023.

 
 

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I cover COVID-19 and health in the East Texas area for Tyler Morning Telegraph, the Longview News-Journal and Tyler Paper Español. Stephen F. Austin State University alumna. For story ideas, email me at rtorres@tylerpaper.com.