HCHD Expresses Hope in Finding Healthcare Partner

Possible Tax Hike Discussed

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – The Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) Board of Directors met in a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24 to hear presentations from CHI (Catholic Health Initiatives) and CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances about possibly assuming the role of health care provider for the now defunct Houston County Hospital.

As the meeting got underway, HCHD Board President Deborah Porth Blackwell commented the presentations by CHI and CHRISTUS would “… be handled in executive session. We will pass that on for later.”

Blackwell continued and provided those in attendance with numbers provided to her by CHRISTUS which is currently operating a clinic on the hospital campus.

“The average visits per day are 16.9 and they have seen 826 patients. As of Nov. 1, Dr. Allen Long will be at the clinic one day per week. Dr. Ed Johnson will be at the clinic four days per week, Lori Neubauer will be returning to Crockett and Scott Schaeffer will also be seeing patients,” she said.

Following the approval of the HCHD financial reports and the approval of the 2017-2018 budget, Blackwell commented on the matters.

“Keep in mind, this budget is going to change drastically when we make a decision on a partner going forward, so we will have to amend the budget,” she said.

The next agenda item addressed by the HCHD board concerned the approval of an agreement to work with the Texas A&M Rural and Community Health Institute on a project called “Optimizing Rural Healthcare.”

“This was kind of a fun surprise,” Blackwell commented. “Dr. Nancy Dickey who is with the A&M Rural Community Health Institute called us. They have been approved to work with three communities to help determine what type of healthcare is appropriate for their community.”

The HCHD president explained there was no monetary obligation for participation but stressed the project will need the participation of Crockett residents.

“They are going to meet with citizens of Crockett and Houston County to define community perception and to participate in discussions about potential next steps. It is a six to 12 month process and the outcome will be a blueprint for the steps to move forward. It is pretty exciting because we will be the first one we do and obviously we are in need of as much help as we can get,” she said.

“The last statement that they made was, ‘Our intent is to become a valuable member of your community as you make decisions about local healthcare accessibility,’” she said.

A motion to participate in the program was unanimously approved.

With the recent resignation of board member Tommy Driskell, the HCHD nominations committee had been looking at potential HCHD residents to fill the open board seat.

Once the matter of the study participation had been approved, the board of directors was given the name of Kathi Calvert for consideration to replace Driskell.

Calvert is the general manager of the Houston County Electric Co-op. No action was taken on the matter and it will be addressed at the board’s next meeting.

Before the meeting concluded, Blackwell spoke about the possibility of a tax hike. An initiative on the November ballot will ask voters to decide if they would be willing to lift the 15 cent cap currently in place for the HCHD.

If the ballot measure is passed, it will give the HCHD the ability to move the tax rate to a maximum of 75 cents at a later date.

“There is concern about the 75 cent tax rate. After analyzing what other hospital districts have for tax rates, (the HCHD is looking) at somewhere between 19 cents and 29 cents. I can say from my standpoint, we are not going to entertain something extreme and raise the taxes to some unreasonable tax level. I would say the possibility lies somewhere between the 19 and 29 cent range,” she said.

Blackwell further explained any tax hike above eight percent would be subject to a rollback election. She also remarked she had just received a letter from the TLL Temple Foundation concerning a grant awarded to the hospital in the amount of $300,000.

“Now,” she added, “there are some terms and one of those is the voters elect to remove the cap. I just got this right now. Please encourage your friends to go out and vote.”

No further information on the grant was immediately available. The next meeting of the HCHD Board of Directors is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in the hospital cafeteria.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].

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