New Law Helps Rural Hospitals Attract Doctors

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

FORT STOCKTON - Rural hospitals around the state are celebrating a legislative victory.

Governor Perry recently signed a bill into law that allows hospitals in smaller counties to hire their own physicians.

And now Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton is eager to start the hiring process.

"Getting a doctor to come to Fort Stockton is difficult," Jim Horton said.

Horton knows first hand just how difficult it is. He's CEO of Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton.

Under current law, hospitals have to go through a contracting agency to hire physicians.

"We contract with them, they contract with the doctor and the doctor comes to Fort Stockton and it's very confusing," Horton said. "It makes it really hard to recruit physicians to rural hospitals like ours."

It also cost the hospital time and a lot of money.

"Each physician recruitment costs us about $75,000 total," Horton said.

But that's all about to change thanks to a new law.

It allows rural hospitals in counties with under 50,000 residents to skip that middleman agency and directly hire doctors.

Horton said it's a move that's been long awaited by many doctors.

"What they want is for us to be able to employ them and then we put them in our clinic, we cover all the expenses, and they have the freedom just to see patients and do their thing," he said.

The new law will save hospitals and doctors hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"This way the physician doesn't have to worry about overhead hiring employees and all the software, and all the equipment and the billing side of it that's so hard to work through," Horton said. They can really focus on seeing patients."

And that's something both doctors and hospitals are looking forward to.

"It will help us tremendously," Horton said. "I'm hoping it will help us to recruit some quality physicians that are going to be here for a long time."