Todd Mann, Chief Executive Officer
This story isn’t only about a hospital, another building stretching into the sky. This story includes the blood, sweat, and tears inside the brick-and-mortar of South Texas Heath System McAllen, of the men and women of the Valley who make a story worth reading.
For almost 100 years, McAllen Medical Center, now South Texas Health System (STHS) McAllen, has been serving the Rio Grande Valley. Many people remember how the downtown hospital was the place of their birth. Moving to its present location in 1983, the hospital has been a mainstay of McAllen ever since.
Completing a $54 million facility aesthetic upgrade last July – from rest rooms to elevators to patient rooms to corridors – has been a patient and family pleaser. Even hiring a new chef for the hospital arena has brought a more boutique-style food, creating unique menus for staff and patients.
Owned by Universal Health Services, a Pennsylvania-based hospital management company, STHS is in the process of rebranding to bring more continuity to its many facilities. You’ll now see, for example, South Texas Health System McAllen, South Texas Health System Heart, South Texas Health System Free-Standing Emergency Room Weslaco.
“We’re the largest integrated health system south of San Antonio,” stated Todd Mann, CEO of South Texas Health System McAllen. He readily acknowledges with a chuckle, however, that El Hospital Blanco (The White Hospital), will probably always be its unofficial name.
Hospitals continually add to their integrity and STHS McAllen is no different. As a Trauma Level 2 hospital, they are moving into a Trauma Level 1 position. Making Mann ecstatic is their Comprehensive Stroke Center designation.
“What that means is we give the highest level of care you can give a stroke victim,” Mann acknowledges. “Before you had comprehensive stroke centers, there was nothing you could do. Now we can get you in here and get you Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), a drug administered to reverse or reduce the debilitating effects of a stroke. We use the hub and spoke model with the free-standing emergency department as spokes and our hospital as the hub. Though all the centers are stroke-designated, if further measures are needed, they are sent here immediately.”
Talking about the hospital gets Mann excited but nothing touches him as deeply as when he begins sharing stories about the pandemic and its effects on the people who work under his guidance.
“No other hospital in south Texas cared for as many COVID patients as we saw in this hospital besides DHR and Valley Baptist in Cameron County,” stated Mann. “Being a leader in terms of providing care, it was quite a bit of a strain when the serge hit, beyond our physical and human resource capacities.
“At one point in time, we had over 200 state nurses assisting us. We also had an 88-man Department of Defense army unit taking care of patients. The Department of Defense deploys them to areas like Afghanistan or wherever there is a significant issue. They were here for about two and a half months – nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, techs, and a full-fledged unit who helped offset some of our labor shortages. It was interesting times.”
Mann spoke with awe of those whose job it was to save lives.
“There were a lot of heroic stories through those 18 months, and we are still seeing miracles with what we were able to do with folks we never thought were going to walk out of here.”
He tells the story of the new young mother in her early 20s who gave birth after having contracted COVID. Sent to the ICU immediately after giving birth, she was not expected to make it. Marveling at the miracle, Mann spoke of the recent picture he had seen of her sitting with her baby at home, recovered, and loving that baby.
“Those are the type of things that are so uplifting especially when members of our own staff succumbed during the serge. One of the things I’m most proud of is going through a horrific unprecedented event such as a global pandemic where there were no specific policies or procedures, our staff was in the trenches every day.
“To watch them come in every single day with tragedy, horrible news surrounding them, risking their own lives, hits you to your core. They would go home every single day seeing things they had never seen before as a nurse, as a housekeeper, as a food nutritionist, as a physician, it didn’t matter. They would go home and try to sleep yet they would come back and do it again, and again, and again.
“As I’m giving my fourth eulogy for one of our staff members, I see everybody there is obviously devastated, crying, knowing it could have been them. Then I would see them come back to work the next day.
“It was an amazing human movement and drive towards helping your fellow man. What was motivating is to see amazing human beings doing what they were meant to do. I would like to say Thank You to our staff! Thank you for choosing that profession because when we needed you, you were there.”
It’s no wonder Todd Mann finds his job fulfilling.
“It feels great to advance the level of healthcare within the RGV to continue to take care of our community,” he smiled. “That’s extremely rewarding.”