San Antonio's Methodist Hospital has announced a major expansion of its main hospital and to its Methodist Children's Hospital, 1200 WOAI's Stephanie Narvaez reports.


  Methodist CEO Gay Nord says the total cost of the project, which will include two new towers, a new parking garage and more private rooms will be about $200 million.  It will begin next month and will be completed in 2017.


  "It's population growth and certainly demand for services," she said.  "This is really the next phase for this campus to be able to do that, on both the adult side and the children's side."


  Methodist is the oldest hospital in the Medical Center, opening in 1963 when the region was mainly a field of cattle and mesquite trees.  In a sign of the times, when Methodist opened, it was billed as the country's first 'nuclear bomb proof' hospital, a claim which, fortunately, has never been tested.


  "We have the busiest children's emergency department in the nation," Nord said.  "The highest population growth is out children in San Antonio and surrounding areas.  The demand is clearly there, and we want to be able to meet it."


  The nine story, partially underground parking garage will deal with one of the most serious problems in the Medical Center, a lack of parking.


  Nord declined to comment on the status of a 'Memorandum of Understanding' which Methodist entered into three months ago with the U.T. Health Science Center to look into the possibly of collaborating on a free standing Children's Hospital in the Medical Center.  CHRISTUS Health Care currently operates the regions only Tier One Children’s Hospital downtown.


  "I think it's just a sign of the growth in San Antonio," she said of Methodist's Children's Hospital expansion at the time when CHRISTUS and Baylor College of Medicine are ramping up their children's facilities downtown.  "We're all stepping up to meet those demands."


  But observers said it is unlikely that Methodist Health Care System would invest $200 million in an expansion of its current facilities if the construction of another free standing hospital were still a possibility.