Pecos County Memorial Hospital Feeling the Sting of the Bad Economy

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

PECOS COUNTY--The big question, is it too late to find a prescripton for the problem?

According to Hospital CEO Russell Tippen, "In our emergency room, we've seen 700 fewer patients, from this time last year."

Tippen says they saw the writing on the wall months ago.   The economic slump was going to hit, and it hit them hard,  "We've been talking to our county commissoners and our board of directors for about the last six or seven months, preparing them for this time.  April and May was pretty rough, patient wise and cash wise, so we've had a pretty rough couple of months."

When people had money, they didn't mind spending their co-pay to see the doctor if they felt sick.   Now, it's just the opposite. "People are holding on to the bitter end.  They're not coming in when they think they're sick, they're coming in when they are extremely sick," Tippen explained.

Due to the fiancial situation the hospital is in now, administrators are doing everything they can to reduce spending and save money.  Their options are clearly on the table.  But with their commitment to health care in Pecos County, letting their doors close for good isn't one of them.

"To think that there would be a day that this place wouldn't be here anymore, I think is a conversation that will never happen.  Just because there's elected officials in this town that will make sure that doesn't happen," Tippen saod.

The hospital generates over $40 million, less than 10% of their funding comes from the county.  That's their yearly budget.   Tippen says, "It doesn't seem like a whole lot, but when you're getting down to it, when it's been slow, that 8 or 9 percent comes in handy.  That's what they tax the people of this county for."

Tippen said he asked for that money at the last board meeting. And it will go to good use, "We're going to pay our bills and pay our employees and make sure that these patients that use us and trust us, get their high level health care, right here."

Now the hospital is at almost 100% capacity and Tippen says things look positive for the coming months, "We all, kind of, walk hand in hand out here.  What affects one of us, affects us all.  When it picks up for one part of the community, it picks up for all of us."