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Both Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville had humble beginnings in the early days of the 20th Century. Each hospital can trace its roots back to dedicated doctors and visionary citizens in their respective communities as well as Christian organizations seeking to serve God by serving their fellow human beings. 

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Beginnings of the hospitals in Brownsville and Harlingen

Mercy-HospitalIn 1913 in Brownsville, Miss Nora Kelly opened the Charity Home on Madison Street to serve the homeless. Two years later, the Mexican Revolution brought about the need for a place that could provide medical care. People were fleeing north across the border into Brownsville, some needing treatment for wartime injuries, while others were suffering from diseases such as yellow fever and diphtheria.

Ms. Kelly received a donation of $14,000 from the Stillman Family — one of the founding families of Brownsville — to address this problem. In 1917, Divine Providence Hospital opened with the Sisters of Mercy at the helm. This facility quickly proved to be too small for a growing Brownsville. Thanks to a donation of land from James Stillman, and the generosity of other Brownsville residents, Mercy Hospital opened in July 1923.

Valley-Baptist-HospitalThat same year, 25 miles away in Harlingen, another hospital was being formed by a group of dedicated citizens who saw the need for a modern medical facility. These residents, including Dr. N. A. Davidson, Dr. G.W. Letzerick, S. G. Stringer, and Judge Fred Bennett, set out to build on a foundation that had been laid by Harlingen’s original 10-bed hospital on "F" Street, between Harrison and Tyler streets, in a converted frame house owned by Mrs. Ida Gilbert. Harlingen’s new 36-bed hospital was also built on "F" Street, a few blocks away from the original facility. Valley Baptist Hospital, owned by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association, opened as a not-for-profit community hospital on January 22, 1925.

Growth and Changes Through the Years

Over the years, both hospitals experienced rapid growth and changes in ownership. In Harlingen, the Baptist General Convention of Texas acquired the hospital in 1945. In Brownsville, the hospital was operated by the Sisters of Mercy and known as Mercy Hospital or “La Merced” for 50 years until 1973, when it came under corporate ownership and became Brownsville Medical Center. In 2004, the Brownsville hospital was purchased by Valley Baptist Health System and its name changed to Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville.  

Most recently, in 2011, Valley Baptist entered into a joint venture with Vanguard Health Systems, bringing the resources and expertise of a respected national health care company to Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville.

Building to Serve Valley Patients

Along with the growth and changes came extensive building projects at both hospitals. In Harlingen, Valley Baptist moved to its present location, on Pease Street off Ed Carey Drive, in 1956. A six-story South Tower was built at Valley-Baptist Harlingen in the 1980s, followed by the four-story East Tower in 1998 and a six-story Medical Arts Pavilion for physician offices in 2001.

The East Tower at Valley Baptist-Harlingen features the Valley’s first Children’s Center for pediatric patients, the only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Cameron County; a “Mother-Baby” obstetrical unit that emphasizes family-centered maternity care; a 32-bed gynecology unit; Harlingen’s only Newborn Intensive Care Unit; convenient areas for outpatient services; a 30-bed Day Surgery Center; new operating rooms, a 32-room state-of-the-art Emergency Department; and a roof-top heliport.  This increased the total beds at Valley Baptist-Harlingen to 586 – by far the largest hospital in Cameron County.

In Brownsville, a new wing and major renovations were added in 1952, resulting in an emergency room, a pediatric unit, a new laboratory and an operating room.  In 1963, 52 more beds, a labor and delivery area, surgical suites and a radiology department were added.  In 1983, part of the original 1923 building in Brownsville was demolished and replaced with the current three-story patient tower.

Also in Brownsville, in 1999, the third floor of a Women’s Center and Emergency Department three-story tower opened. This addition included 10 Labor/Delivery/Recovery Suites, four Women’s Surgery Suites, observation areas, and an expanded 34-bed neonatal intensive care nursery. In 2003 and 2004, the Radiology Department was expanded, and in the last decade, the Edelstein Professional Building opened on the Brownsville campus, housing additional physician offices.  Valley Baptist-Brownsville now has 243 beds at its main campus at Central Blvd. and West Jefferson, making it the largest hospital in Brownsville 

Recent Developments at Valley Baptist

In 2007, Valley Baptist-Brownsville expanded beyond its main hospital campus by opening a separate campus in East Brownsville, which includes Brownsville's first inpatient behavioral health facility (with 37 additional beds), and an outpatient mental health program for senior adults.  Expansion continued into North Brownsville in 2008, with the opening of an ambulatory surgery center at the North Brownsville Medical Plaza off Expressway 77.  This was followed in 2009 by the opening of an imaging center, featuring an open MRI, at the North Brownsville Medical Plaza.  

In 2012, both Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville opened new state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories, to serve Valley patients who need heart catheterization procedures, peripheral (leg) angiograms, and implantable pacemakers.  The new cath labs offer state-of-the-art digital imaging, allowing physicians to view angiograms with amazing detail and precision.  (Valley Baptist has long been the site for ground-breaking heart procedures, with the Valley’s first open heart surgery and cardiac catheterizations being performed at Valley Baptist in Harlingen in 1977.)  

Also in 2012, Valley Baptist-Harlingen became the first Valley hospital to offer life-saving interventional stroke procedures, in which medications to reverse a stroke are administered through catheters (thin tubes) -- directly to arteries supplying blood to a patient’s brain.  In other cases, Dr. Ameer Hassan, the Valley’s first specially-trained Interventional Neurologist, uses special equipment in a new biplane lab / neurovascular angiography suite at Valley Baptist to insert tiny medical devices to clear blockages in the blood vessels.  (Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville were also the first Valley hospitals to be accredited as “Primary Stroke Centers” by the national accrediting organization for health care facilities, the Joint Commission, and by the State of Texas. 

In 2011, Valley Baptist-Harlingen became the first hospital south of San Antonio to be certified specifically for knee and hip replacement surgeries by the national accrediting organization, the Joint Commission.  Patients from across the country come to Valley Baptist for orthopedic surgery.  Dr. Rick Bassett has performed more than 10,000 knee replacement and 2,000 hip replacement surgeries at Valley Baptist-Harlingen.    

In 2011, Valley Baptist-Brownsville completed construction to new surgery suites which are benefitting patients needing a wide variety of surgeries, including laparoscopic and other minimally-invasive surgeries. Then in 2012 both Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville added new state-of-the-art robots (Valley Baptist-Harlingen had become the first hospital in the Valley to offer robotic surgery with credentialed staff on site, in 2008).   The more precise surgery with Valley Baptist’s da Vinci® ‘Si’ roboticsystem means smaller incisions, less pain, and faster recoveries for patients in many cases.

The Future of Valley Baptist Care

Looking to the future together, Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville remain committed to continuing a “Tradition of Excellence” and to serving our communities with the latest advances in medicine and state-of-the-art high-tech equipment, capably handled through the caring, human touch of our dedicated doctors, nurses and staff.