By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – A multitude of former employees of Timberland Healthcare were in attendance at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) to hear a presentation on the future of the hospital.

Crockett Medical Center, LLC in Austin is aiming to provide medical services at the Houston County hospital in the spring.

Dr. Kelly Tjelmeland and Dr. Subir Chikara of Crockett Medical Center, LLC began by telling the board and those in attendance a bit about himself and Dr. Chikara.

“We’ve been involved in all aspects of the healthcare industry. Subir and I have worked together for the last 15 years doing all sorts of medical projects, from hospital-based things to ancillary care. We’ve had executive and operational experience in all aspects, from development of facilities from the construction standpoint and also the capital financing development of those facilities,” Dr. Tjelmeland said.

The doctors have been involved in the development of an outpatient surgery center and run laboratory, pharmacy and radiology services, as well as specialty clinics and urgent and primary care facilities.

“Basically, what we want to do – and really, what the community wants and what the board wants as well – is we want comprehensive healthcare for everybody in Houston County,” said Dr. Tjelmeland of his organization’s plans for the hospital. “We want it to be a true medical center, not just an emergency room. We want to be able to admit patients. We want to bring specialty care back to the community.

As physicians, they know the difference between hospital administration and actually caring for patients,” Dr. Tjelmeland said.

“We all know the frustrations in bridging that gap. But as physicians, we want everybody in this town treated as if they were our own patients, because that’s what we would want, and that’s what we’d expect. And that’s why we’ve been successful in the past,” he said.

Dr. Tjelmeland explained that the company plans to reopen the hospital under Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation, which he believes they will be able to obtain.

“We want to expand our current outpatient services to full capacity,” Dr. Tjelmeland said. “Jumping ahead a little bit, we’ve been in discussions with Christus Health, and we are going to have a collaborative relationship with Christus as far as transferring patients with higher acuity care needs to them. We plan on collaborating with them on the specialty services they may be able to bring that we wouldn’t be able to do on day one (of hospital operations).

The doctor explained the collaborative relationship with Christus Health will benefit the community.

“That is something that is really going to benefit the community, but also leverage the things that we’re good at with the things that Christus can provide as well,” Dr. Tjelmeland explained. “So, we’re able to kind of bridge that gap.

“Also, it’s a successful partnership with the community and with the hospital district,” he continued. “It’s just not us doing this thing, you know. We’re invested in this personally. It’s not just hiding behind some corporation. This is something we’re personally invested in – both financially and emotionally and time-wise – and partnering with the board; partnering with the community is really how this is going to be successful.

Dr. Tjelmeland said each group could not do it on their own.

“So, it is a community effort, and we’re going to put in whatever it takes; whatever that may need to be to make this successful,” the doctor said.

Dr. Chikara said many people may wonder why they are doing this.

“This is something that we’re pretty passionate about,” Dr. Chikara said.

Dr. Chikara said he interviewed for a residency in Crockett in 1997. Although he and his family ultimately settled in Austin, the East Texas area holds a special place in his heart.

“This area is important and special to us. I went to A&M, so this part of Texas is important,” Dr. Chikara said. “And what happened, it really should not happen. I mean, a community should not be without emergency services and basic healthcare.

“So, this is something we believe in,” he finished. “And we’re committed to it.”

Dr. Chikara expressed faith that the partnership between his company and the hospital will be a successful one.

“We are passionate about it, but it has to make sense,” he said of the company’s decision to invest in hospitals. “You know, if we’re going to be putting our efforts and our money into something, we want to be a hundred percent sure it works.

Dr. Chikara said it’s a great community – the demographics and location are good.

“There’s no reason this shouldn’t work,” he said.

Dr. Tjemeland said the facility is in great shape.

“We were very impressed. This was not the only place that we looked at, but this was, by far, the best. Everything made sense from a business standpoint and a community standpoint. There’s just absolutely no reason why this can’t be successful,” Dr. Tjemeland said.

It just has to be done right, the doctor added.

“t’s got to be done (on a) a very tight budget and expanded as we’re able to expand and as the patient volume dictates,” Dr. Tjemeland said. “We can’t just decide to do a bunch of stuff and open a bunch of things if we don’t have the volume to match that capital expenditure.”

Concluding, Dr. Tjemeland said he is very hopeful.

“Like I said, we’ve been very successful in the past, and we think we can bring it to this next level,” he finished.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.