By Greg Ritchie
HOUSTON COUNTY – The Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) board of trustees met Tuesday, Jan. 17 in a crowded meeting at Crockett Medical Center (CMC) to hear the concerns of residents worried about the future of the local hospital.
Without enough chairs for all of the attendees and many forced to stand, the HCHD board was all present to face the room full of local educators, media, concerned residents and many CMC employees worried about the recent news of unfinished negotiations with CMC. While the contract was set to expire January 15, HCHD Board President Barbara Crowson finished the meeting with a statement that there was an agreement to continue the lease agreement with CMC for another five years.
“As we stated in a meeting last July, the lease was renewed by the Tennant for an additional five years.” Crowson said. “The district will continue to honor its obligations under that agreement. This board is focused on and remains committed to maintaining high quality health care in this community.”
The board heard the financial statement which showed the district in good financial health with over $220,000 in the bank. The results of a recent financial audit were postponed as the board heard from the public.
Crockett Independent School District (CISD) Superintendent John Emerich told the board while he did not purport to understand all of the issues facing the board, he told the trustees the continuance of a hospital in the community was of vital importance both to the health and future of his district’s students and parents – but also affected his ability to recruit and retain teachers in the area.
“This is crucial in their decision to come to Crockett and work and having a hospital here is a big part of that decision,” Emerich said. “I appeal to you to do whatever you can to try and keep the hospital here and keep it running because it is important to me personally, important to my employees and important to this community.”
Latexo Independent School District (LIST) Career and Technical Education Director Chris Cravens echoed Emerich’s comments and added the enormous benefit he was able to offer his students through their partnership with CMC. LISD recently unveiled their new health science room in the new gymnasium complete with real-world equipment, mannequins and phlebotomy lab.
“Our seniors can leave campus two days a week and ‘job-shadow.’ Obviously the biggest and best place they can do that is right here in the hospital,” Cravens explained. “Because right here they get to go to the ER, they could go to the lab and pharmacies, surgery, physical therapy, radiology, respiratory therapy and now of course the new rural and specialty clinic.”
Cravens told the story of one young student, excited to see their first surgery – who afterwards decided maybe surgery was not for them. An invaluable experience gained at the local hospital.
The board voted to pay half of an old invoice owed to local business Hargrove-Neel, Inc. for work done in the hospital in August 2022. For some reason the bill had not been received and paid. Crowson told the board given the time that had already passed and since this was a local business she wanted the board’s approval to pay half the bill of roughly $26,000. Trustee Rhonda Brown pointed out under the terms of the lease with CMC, the board should not pay such a bill, but agreed that since this was a local business the bill should be split between the hospital district and CMC. This was approved unanimously.
An estimate was presented for a little over $8,000 to Johnson Controls to repair some critical machinery in the operating room. Crowson told the board she felt they should cover this bill, too, in order to show their continuing commitment to CMC. Again Trustee Brown asked if this was part of the lease agreement. Crowson agreed it was not, but the board again unanimously approved for the work to be done and the bill to be paid.
While there was no news to report regarding a formal, signed lease renewal, it seemed there had been an understanding between the parties regarding the continuation of the agreement for another five-year term.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]