by Victor Lopez
FORT STOCKTON--They are one of only five county hospitals, still operating in the state of Texas. As the economic crunch continues to grip the nation, administrators at Pecos County Memorial hope voters will agree, creating a new hospital district to run things, is the right move.
According to hospital CEO Russell Tippen, "The employees of the hospital came together and realized there's going to be some difficult decisions that are going to have to be made in the future based on the oil and gas market and we want those decisions to be made at the board level."
On Monday, county commissioners gave their approval on the first step toward creating a new hospital district for Pecos County. Which according Tippin, is a good thing, "It sets the hospital up as it's own taxing entity. It allows it to set it's own tax rate, by elected board members."
With the price of oil less than $40 per barrel, those taxes could mean the difference between continuing to serve the area or shutting down. "When the decision time comes, as to which service are we going to keep or which service are we going to do away with, I don't think the voters in Fort Stockton and Pecos County want health care to be part of that," Tippin explained.
All the construction going on behind the hospital is part of the $5 million bond approved by voters last November. Tipppin says it's proof positive, there are no cut backs in the future for Pecos County Memorial, "We're adding on a 20,000 square foot building that includes physical therapy, dialysis, cardio-rehab, so we have no plans, we're not looking to scale back. We're looking to secure our future and to grow through this economic slow down. "
While there will be some changes, many things will stay the same.
"Actually, we will have a name change. The change that's being proposed is Trans Pecos Regional Medical Center. We'll still be the same employees. We'll still do the same things we do now. But it just puts the control of the budget and the taxing part of it in the hands of the elected board members," Tippin said.
Pecos County Commissioners will decide at their next meeting, whether to set a special April 4th election for the proposal. Tippin is hopeful voters will be on their side, "You have to turn back to you local taxpayer and say hey, is it worth 27 cents a day to have quality health care in Pecos County and hopefully the answer will be yes."