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MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ |  THE MONITOR

MERCEDES — Construction of the new Family Practice Residency Program and adjacent Mid-Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation facility are on schedule for an early 2017 opening.

Although reported late last year that the work may be done as early as this November, the targeted completion date was tentative at the time, and officials now say construction may not be finished until January or February.

“The construction progress is moving forward and is pretty much on schedule, which I believe is the beginning of 2017,” Mercedes City Manager Richard Garcia said on Friday. “It might be off a couple of weeks, but we’re looking forward to its completion and staffing, and the opening of the facilities.”

It was in December 2015 that officials broke ground on the structures, of which the program was borne out of a partnership between Knapp Medical Center, the Knapp Community Care Foundation, UTRGV and the City of Mercedes.

Located on Expressway 83 and Mile 2 West in Mercedes, the residency will be housed within a 12,000-square-foot facility accommodating at least 18 medical residents and as many examination rooms.

The cost of construction, conducted by the Houston-based Jacob White Construction Company, is estimated at about $3.5 million.

What’s more, the foundation is pledging toward the effort $3.9 million over seven years while Mercedes has agreed to donate $1.5 million in operating costs over five years — this is in addition to gifting the two acres needed to build the residency.

UTRGV’s contribution consists of providing as many as five faculty members.

Acting upon growing healthcare demands in the region, local officials have long-identified a need for more doctors in the Rio Grande Valley. The challenge for some time, however, has been keeping homegrown physicians in the area.

Dr. Francisco Fernandez, the founding and now-former dean for the UTRGV School of Medicine, previously cited data that showed 80 percent of medical students staying in the communities where they received their training and graduate education. What the residency will aim to accomplish within 20 years’ time is adding up to 180 more doctors serving the Valley.

“We believe it’s going to be a great thing to provide the training facilities for those would-be medical doctors,” Garcia added. “The goal is to provide a service to the Valley and residents of the Mid-Valley as well.”

Strategically located in the vicinity of the South Texas High School for Health Professions, local officials also hope that the intersection of Expressway 83 and Mile 2 West in Mercedes will soon become a hub for all things medical education and wellness.

Then there’s the new 123-bed Mid-Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation facility, which is under construction at the six-acre property adjacent to the residency. It’s there that SCI Construction Inc. is building the $7 million, 48,500-sq.-ft. nursing complex.

Carl Fellbaum, president of Touchstone Communities Inc., the company that owns Mid-Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation, has said the facility takes advantage of a “cultural change” that demands better caring methods for the elderly, and will be staffed by as many as 120 full-time employees.