By: Cierra Putman
FORT STOCKTON - In a hospital, the word critical usually isn't a good thing, but as a critical access hospital, Pecos County Memorial Hospital will bring in more cash and better care for patients.
"I think it will help tremendously," Dr. Larry Boyd said. "This is really the only hospital in the area this size that hasn't already converted. I think it will be very beneficial for the hospital and the community. There's really no down side to it at all. There's only an up side."
The change may come in part thanks to bad times.
"As they have less spendable money, people quit going to restaurants, they quit going to movies and interestingly enough they stop going to the doctor," Interim Chief Executive Jim Horton, said. "So, we saw a really big decrease in our out-patient volume. On the other hand, what we've seen is that when patients do come to the hospital they come in much sicker. So, we've seen an increase in our in-patient volume."
Horton says that increase means the hospital can join a program designed to help rural hospitals stay afloat by giving them more money for some in-patients.
While the change should bring in more money for the hospital, patients won't have to pay more at the end of the day. Instead, the hospital will get more money from Medicare.
Right now, Medicare pays the hospital based on how they diagnose a patient, but a critical access hospital gets paid based on how much it costs to treat Medicare patients.
"They get absolutely the same care," Boyd said. "In fact, they'll get better care because there will be an incentive for the hospital to provide more services than it does right now. With critical access, the more they can do, the more revenue they can generate."
That extra cash could mean less money out of the pockets of Pecos County taxpayers.
"I can't promise we won't have to increase our request to the county," Horton said. "But it gives us an opportunity to take advantage of the situation and generate more revenue and hopefully decrease the burden on taxpayers."
The hospital board will ultimately make the decision to become a critical access hospital.
Board members are set to vote on the issue during their October 12 meeting.