As Texoma Medical Center opens its new expanded Emergency Department and new tower, hospital officials are already eyeing the next stage of expansion. TMC held a ceremony Thursday for the grand opening of the new emergency department — the first part of a $50 million expansion — with officials discussing what is the next step.

The new emergency room, located on the first floor of the new four-story hospital tower, effectively doubles the size of the hospital's ER from 24 beds to 48. In the weeks to come, the hospital will start bringing moving the other departments that are a part of the expansion, officials said.

Since the hospital first opened its current location at the corner of FM 691 and U.S. Highway 75 in 2009, it has grown significantly, with patient visits increasing from about 32,00 emergency room visits per year to more than 65,000 each year, TMC CEO Ron Seal said.

“We are seeing the growth here now because of the quality of care,” Seal said.

The expansion of the hospital was first announced in late 2016, when crews broke ground on the second tower. The initial construction features three functional floors with the fourth floor built out as a shell for future expansion. The tower would also be built for expansion with room for four additional floors for a total of eight floors.

This announcement followed two years of expansions with the build out of the seventh and eighth floors of the main hospital in 2014 and 2015, respectively. At the time, hospital officials said the latest expansion was needed as the hospital was reaching capacity and bed space.

“I have to apologize to anyone who has had to visit us in recent times,” Seal said. “You have had to lay in a hallway bed.”

With the expansion, the new emergency room will feature two triage rooms and five fast-track beds for minor emergency cases. The ER will also feature beds dedicated to behavioral health emergency cases, among other features.

During a brief speech, TMC board chairman Bill Douglass said the hospital has proved to be an economic asset for the entire community since it was built. With the latest expansion, he said, he expects these trends to continue.

“There is $260 million invested on that intersection,” Douglass said. “That's an economic engine.”

While officials said the new ER will officially go into service at 7 a.m. Friday, the other floors and departments in the expansion will be opening gradually over the next few weeks. By the end of the month, Seal said, he expects the new 20-patient ICU to open on the second floor, with additional medical-surgery beds opening in mid-April. The final phase of the current expansion, a neonatal ICU, will open on the third floor on May 1.

With the transfer of the ER, officials will now begin to renovate and convert the previous ER to a new 16-bed chest pain unit, which is expected to open later this summer.

Despite having just completed the first phase of the expansion, Seal took the opportunity Thursday to say he has already started the work toward the next stages of development. Seal said he has already approached Universal Health Services, parent company of TMC, about completing work on the fourth floor and building out the fifth and sixth as shells.

Seal said he thought the time was right to pursue the next phase as crews will remain on site through at least May as they complete work on the bottom three floors. Seal said he would like to see the fourth floor completed within six months, but said he did not anticipate opening it until the framing for the top two floors is completed.

In addition to the three floors, the expansion would also include improvements to ancillary support departments including dietary, lab and mechanical services, Seal said.

Officials with the hospital estimated that this latest phase of expansion could cost about $40 million to complete.