County Hospital Thriving One Year On

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY –  As MidCoast completes its first year in operation in the county, The Messenger thought it was time to get to know the Hospital Administrator Kent Waters and see how the hospital is doing. 

Vital to the overall health of the area, the hospital may never turn out to be a “one-stop shop” for every ailment. As long as it can provide essential services locally, and remain economically workable for its owners, older residents can stay and the area and potential residents can come, knowing there is a health care option close by. 

The recent elections to the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) board of directors proved the county wants good relations with its hospital administration and wants the enterprise to succeed. Having much more space than they may ever need, MidCoast is bound to move slowly, in an industry where everything is expensive and even the smallest change can have a big impact on both residents and the hospital itself. 

Tucked away in a back office behind the hospital cafeteria, Waters walks fast, talks fast and thinks fast. Although many in his family work in healthcare, he had never considered the industry for himself. It was until COVID hit and he was unable to put his business degree to work with customers face to face, that he decided to use the down time to go back to school and began working in the medical industry. 

He worked his way up with the help of the former MidCoast CEO, who asked him to help them get their proposed facility in Trinity up and running. Getting involved in the lengthy work of permits, staffing, equipment and all the rest, he had heard something about a possible opportunity in Crockett, but it wasn’t on his radar at that time. 

Suddenly one day, he was told the deal was done and he would help run both facilities. Waters was disappointed how the news was communicated to the local staff. Or better put, how the news was not communicated to them. 

“We had a meet and greet here in Crockett and the people looked at me and said, 

Who are you?’” Waters said, shrugging. 

No one seemed to know anything about the change and what it would mean. Waters set out to correct that, first of all by going through all of the current contracts and agreements MidCoast was forced to inherit with the takeover. Waters was quickly able to save the company tens of thousands of dollars a month, just by trimming the fat. He was also able to get the staff some of the much needed simpler things which had been neglected earlier. 

“I think the previous administration had plans to leave and wasn’t making any investments in the hospital,” Waters noted. “Desk scanners for the medical records department, for example, had been denied. They cost around $60. I said, of course you need those and we got them.”

Those little changes helped staff gain confidence in the new administration and while changes come slow, programs like their swing bed program have started to take off, now with more patients per month than there used to be per year. The program offers patients recovering from surgery the opportunity to recuperate in the hospital closer to home, before they are discharged.

There are plans to bring in a new surgeon, to add regional providers certain days to the hospital to allow patients to see them at certain times, rather than having to travel to other areas. Waters said he would love to be able to add new areas and fill up the cavernous space, but staffing and equipment for a hospital does not come cheap and these decisions must be made slowly, over time. Each hospital in the MidCoast family operates from its own recourses, meaning while Waters can use certain elements from other hospitals, the Crockett hospital must stay in business on its own legs and not lose money. 

Waters said keeping the hospital open is paramount and while patients have already begun noticing newer equipment popping up, bigger changes will take time. As part of the agreement, MidCoast pays for most maintenance at the hospital, meaning Waters also keeps one weary eye on the roof, knowing he’d better leave a little room in his budget for that, too. 

He said the hospital is successful, profitable and the company is happy to stay and work with the community to improve local health care. With residents and the local hospital on board eager to help, the county may just have what most rural counties only dream of – a local, thriving hospital. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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