Just over five years ago, the roughly 80-year-old Trinity Mother Frances Health System in Tyler sought out a partner to help expand health care in Northeast Texas. On May 1, 2016, that dream union became a reality when the Trinity Mother Frances became a part of Christus Health, establishing the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System.

Chris Glenney, CEO for Christus Health Northeast Texas and senior vice president of group operations for Christus Health, said ahead of the union’s anniversary, the past five years have flown by.

“The joining of the two organizations was such a positive event. I love the story of these parallel organizations,” Glenney said. “Trinity Mother Frances Health System, which was started in Tyler in 1937, is a very, very strong health care system and has been for many years. Really since 1981, it’s been one of the highest performing, integrated health systems in the state of Texas, and so we had a vision to expand.”

Glenney said the vision of Trinity Mother Frances at the time was to keep patients in Northeast Texas.

“We really don’t want people to have to go to Houston, Dallas, Austin or San Antonio for care. We believe all care can be provided in Northeast Texas,” he said.

Through the partnership, Glenney said Trinity Mother Frances, Christus Health and the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (the congregation that started TMF in 1937) found agendas and ideas that worked well with each other’s values.

“We wanted it to be important for our sisters, we wanted it to be important for Tyler, our community,” he said. “We understand we’re an economic driver in the community. We wanted to put some fuel injector on that and see how much we could do. We wanted to expand beyond Northeast Texas. We wanted to go beyond Smith County and so we did that.”

Glenney said TMF chose Christus Health largely because of the culture, including their mutual faith-based care history. As challenges emerge for some health care providers, he said Christus and TMF’s union has provided multiple benefits for both organizations.

“We’ve seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions, a lot of failing organizations near bankruptcy that just couldn’t survive and then they get absorbed by some larger organization,” Glenney said. “That’s not what happened in Tyler. Christus Trinity Mother Frances is one of the strongest organizations in the state of Texas, and so … we wanted to marry as opposed to getting taken over by a larger organization. When you marry like that, you are able to get some amazing concessions for the ministry, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

Over the last five years, officials have developed Christus Trinity Mother Frances to “expand Christ’s healing ministry,” Glenney said.

Before joining Christus, the TMF Health System had a list of must-haves, including maintaining a faith-based nonprofit culture, expanding the sisters’ ministry, investing $700 million of strategic capital in Northeast Texas and investing in the physician organization Trinity Clinic, Glenney said.

He added TMF wanted the electronic medical record system, Epic, which connects medical information across the system’s institutions, to be a part of the union.

“We wanted our Epic system, which is our electronic medical record,” he said. “There weren’t a lot of community hospitals that had a system like Epic. It’s the Ferrari of electronic systems. It creates one single medical record. They all see one record of care.”

Developments

Since that 2016 marriage, multiple Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System facilities have opened or are under construction.

“In terms of investment, we have been busy, busy, busy,” Glenney said.

Christus Mother Frances Hospital — South Tyler, located at 8389 S. Broadway Ave., was built and Glenney called the location “a homerun” for the health system.

The Christus Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute on Cumberland Road and Broadway Avenue is set to open in July. The four-story facility with 62,000 square feet will provide world-class diagnostic, care and rehabilitation space.

“It’s going to be an amazing center for care. It’s going to be unlike anything else really in Northeast Texas. It’s going to be physicians, but we’re also going to focus on the athlete. Not only the 18-year-old high school athlete but we’re going to focus on the adult athlete,” Glenney said. “People that just want to be active and maybe have an injury from time to time.”

In 2016, the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Herrington-Ornelas HealthPark, located at 3593 E. Grande Boulevard in Tyler, became the first branded Christus site under the union.

The facility features physical therapy services, a fitness center with a lap pool, an urgent care center, imaging services and a lab, as well as primary care and access to visiting specialists.

Glenney said the health system loves the philanthropy of the Ornelas family.

The Bradley Thompson Tower, located at the Christus Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler on Dawson Street, opened in May 2020 amid the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 200,000 square foot, multi-story tower includes a modern, highly efficient emergency care center and two state-of-the-art intensive care units. There’s a separate adult and pediatric lobby and waiting rooms. The tower has 48 private ER exam rooms, including 40 adult and eight pediatric.

The new facility also added two 2-bay trauma rooms, two rooftop helipads and high-speed elevator, an advanced imaging center, two sophisticated intensive care units (with 48 patient rooms) and increased patient privacy and infection control.

Glenney said the timing of the tower’s opening was perfect with COVID-19 on the rise at the time.

“I think if we wouldn’t have opened the tower our town would have struggled more with COVID. We added about 75 beds to the community, and they were new pulmonary and ICU beds that were needed desperately to take care of the COVID patients,” he said.

He called the $100 million project a huge addition for Christus Trinity Mother Frances.

“Something that we talked about for a long time; it’s been an absolute homerun,” Glenney said. “We are breaking volume records every single day.”

Recently at the tower’s ER, 240 patients came in for care without a single patient leaving without being seen, Glenney said, adding that number is a key performance indicator for ERs.

“It’s kind of an indicator of how well you’re doing. The lower the ‘left without being seen,’ the better,” he said. “Most hospitals have 3 to 5% of patients that leave without being seen.”

Longtime partners Christus Health and Texas Oncology are also coming together to establish the Northeast Texas Cancer and Research Institute, an 85,000-square-foot center with an anticipated 2022 opening.

The institute will have 30,000 square feet of clinic space for medical oncology, radiation oncology, and gynecologic oncology services, and nearly 3,000 square feet dedicated to research. These areas have technology for radiation therapy, 52 chemotherapy infusion stations (including six for research and four private rooms, pharmacy and lab services and an exercise area for patients).

Christus Health will house a 7,500-square-foot advanced imaging center with 3T MRI, PET/CT, ultrasound, nuclear medicine and more.

There will be an additional 10,000 square feet of Christus Trinity Clinic space in the institute to support the surgical oncology programs of the Louise Herrington Cancer Center, an inpatient facility located within Christus Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler for advanced care for complex cancer patients.

“It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be unlike anything in Tyler. All these things help keep patients in Northeast Texas,” Glenney said. “I still think a lot of patients that are impacted by cancer think Dallas or Houston first. I think if you get cancer, your first reaction is ‘how do I get to MD Anderson,’ but it doesn’t need to be that way. The importance of the Northeast Texas Cancer and Research Institute is so we can really put that kind of building out there so people understand this is high-end doctors and care.”

Glenney added there were 600 surgeries never done before in Tyler because of the types of doctors that Christus TMF has brought to the area.

Christus TMF has expanded its neonatal intensive care unit to continue being a leader in pediatric care, Glenney said.

“It’s awesome; we’ve expanded it. It’s the largest NICU in Northeast Texas. We love what we’ve done with our NICU,” he said. “That’s something that we’ve done as a part of this Christus integration.”

The past five years have also included a focus on regional emergency rooms, such as the ER in Canton built last summer and the upcoming ER in Lindale. The new Christus Trinity Clinic in Chandler is set to open soon as well, Glenney said.

Christus has also improved hospital locations in Longview and Sulphur Springs through acquisitions of the now Christus Good Shepherd Medical Centers — Longview and Marshall, and Christus Trinity Mother Frances — Sulphur Springs.

“[Christus Good Shepherd] a thriving faith-based mission-oriented organization,” Glenney said. “We acquired a hospital in Sulphur Springs, which was another struggling organization.”

The health system has added hundreds of doctors in East Texas over the last five years, Glenney said, noting it’s easy to promote Tyler for the physician candidates.

“Growing our physician access (with Christus Trinity Clinic) is super important; it’s something we’ve spent a lot of time on and we hire the best. We go all around the United States to find the best,” he said. “The best want to come to Tyler. It’s easy to recruit Tyler and part of that is it’s a tremendous community.”

Future

As for the $700 million plan, Glenney said CTMF isn’t quite done, but he expects the next five years won’t be “quite as intense.” He believes there will be a strong focus on Christus’ Longview market, such as expansion at the Good Shepherd campus and its upcoming Cardiovascular Center of Excellence.

“Regionally around Tyler, we continue to focus on growth and development and expansion. I think largely it’s going to be continuing to recruit physicians. We have 96 physician openings in Northeast Texas right now,” Glenney said. “We will probably build another one or two ERs out there. We’ll probably have some facility expansion with our clinics.”

Glenney noted the job growth and economic impact of a health system like Christus Trinity Mother Frances that continues developing.

“When you think about the projects, it’s hundreds of jobs, and I think the more (construction) cranes you see the better. It just shows you how strong the community is,” he said. “The economic impact of this growth is huge. We’re just going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to expand. We’re going to continue to use these resources.”

Trinity Mother Frances Contributions

In addition to what Christus brought to the table, Trinity Mother Frances also made significant contributions to the union as well.

“We are the last faith-based nonprofit health system in Northeast Texas. A lot of community benefitting actions. Our interest is Tyler; our interest is the community,” he said.

Glenney noted the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Tyler is one of three sponsoring congregations that sponsor Christus Health systems. He said a lot of TMF leaders have seen promotions within Christus Health.

“Christus has benefited significantly from the leadership at Trinity Mother Frances,” he said.

The Epic computer system used to maintain extensive health care records at TMF has been placed across several Christus Health systems.

Christus’ strategic plan also included growth in Northeast Texas, and Glenney said TMF wanted to partner with a system wanting that same growth.

 
 

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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.