Sept. 30 Deadline Fast Approaching

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – During a meeting of the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) Board of Directors held on July 25, HCHD Board President Deborah Porth Blackwell informed an overflow audience about a recent meeting held between representatives of the HCHD and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

“First of all, I’m going to start by talking about a few of the rules that have come into play,” Blackwell said during the July 25 meeting. “The Texas Administrative rules require that a change of ownership application must be submitted within 10 days of a facility’s closure. As you know, Timberlands gave us eight days’ notice.”

Because of this, on July 18, a meeting was arranged for Blackwell, HCHD board member Dr. Bob Grier, and former U.S. Congressman Jim Turner to meet with State Rep. Trent Ashby and officials from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services “… to request a waiver on that 10 day requirement.”

“Two days later,” Blackwell continued, “the HCHD received a letter from John Hellerstedt, M.D., the Commissioner of the Department of Texas State Health Services, stating their intent to grant a waiver of the 10 day requirement for change of ownership, if a new operator can be located and submits a proper application for change of ownership and an application for waiver by Sept. 30, 2017.”

Blackwell informed the crowd the process was amazing and ended with a positive result. However, she cautioned the biggest challenges to re-establish healthcare in Houston County were still yet to be faced.

“This gives the HCHD and our community the hope of re-opening our hospital. I want to repeat, it’s only a hope. The HCHD still needs to find a partner and the financial resources to move forward in 60 days, but this is good news,” she said.

Essentially, Blackwell informed the crowd the HCHD had 60 days to find a new medical provider – or be in negotiations – by Sept. 30 or face the very real possibility of an extended hospital closure.

With the Sept. 30 deadline fast approaching, the HCHD met in a relatively short meeting held on Sept. 20.

After approval of the minutes from previous board meetings, Blackwell provided a brief update on the status of the hospital.

“I really don’t have anything to report right now. We are still waiting to hear from CHRISTUS Healthcare about moving forward and they are supposed to be getting with us this week. Everyone please have positive thoughts,” she said.

Following the HCHD financial report provided by Dick Murchison – and with no further business – the meeting was adjourned.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.