McALLEN – Usually it is customary for someone beginning a new construction project to break ground.

While the Chief Executive Officer for McAllen Medical Center Todd Mann and Mayor Jim Darling still donned white hard hats this ceremony included painting the walls of the usually dubbed “White Hospital” with a new shade of brown paint.

The paint the wall ceremony marked the official beginning of the $22.7 million renovation project that is expected to be complete in 15 months.

“We are excited to embark upon a project that will rebrand this facility into a contemporary, more modern facility with a hotel-like atmosphere focusing on our patients, our families, physicians and our staff that chose to be here,” Mann said.

The upgrade will include a brand new parking lot and brand new landscaping for the exterior. The interior will have a hotel style atmosphere beginning in the patient's rooms. There be new corridors, new nursing stations, new elevators, new lobbies and a new dining area.

In one form or another McAllen Medical Center has been serving patients for 98 years. In 1919 McAllen Municipal opened its doors and for 50 years served the community in a downtown location. In 1985 the hospital became part of the Universal Health Services family and McAllen Medical Center was born.

The hospital became to offer services such as open-heart surgery, one-day cardiac catheterization and magnetic resonance imaging also known as MRI. They were also first in neonatal intensive care, neonatal surgery and is the designated Level II Trauma Center for Hidalgo County.

“We were always the first here,” Mann said. “We did a lot firsts in innovative procedures really setting the lead for healthcare in the Rio Grande Valley.”