Hospital Board Debates Indigent Care

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – One of the most divisive issues facing the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) Board of Directors is the question of the amount of money the county must pay for indigent care – health costs for those who cannot or will not pay for their care. 

The board has been divided over the issue, not necessarily over the fact that such care is part of any hospital district’s responsibility, but due to a perceived lack of reporting over the more than one million dollars spent on such care, without much available information. While law prevents private health information being released, several board members have questioned the large figure, wondering aloud how such monies are charged and used. 

Mid-Coast Hospital Operator Kent Waters has said in previous HCHD meetings many people receive care and then never bother to fill out the paperwork, leaving the district to foot the bill. While everyone agrees emergency care should be available to save lives in spite of a patient’s economic situation, the board was set to go into executive session with Mid-Coast representatives to try and resolve the situation, with HCHD Board President telling the crowd there would be no public word after their meeting. The issue would have to be addressed at the April meeting. 

With one board member retiring and several facing challengers, the makeup of the board is set to face changes in its membership, one way or the other, after the elections in early May. The board meeting was cordial, with board members agreeing and voting unanimously for the items on the agenda for the Tuesday, Mar. 19 meeting. 

The ambulance report revealed 270 calls for the month of February, with 166 patient transports, as 83% were transported to Mid-Coast in Crockett and the rest to area hospitals such as Trinity or Lufkin. 

The board agreed to try and schedule a hospital board training session in early May, after the next elections, for the benefit of any new or newly-elected members. 

Mid-Coast administrators were present to explain the lack of financial reports from the hospital, blaming a yearly audit and the integration of the previous hospital’s accounts into their system. They promised to get a full accounting to the board in the near future. 

The April meeting will make public the decisions made in Tuesday’s executive session, specifically to renew or extend the indigent care agreement with Mid-Coast. 

Elections for the HCHD board are set for Saturday, May 4, with the following candidates on the ballot:

Position Two (with Incumbent Pam Ainsworth retiring): Joe “Buddy” Clonts, Monica Glover Pierre

Position Four: Roy Langford, Randy Currie

Position Six: Rhonda Brown (I), Robert Grier

Position Eight: Dina Pipes (I), Jarvis McElhany

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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