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Hospital topics are focus of PH council agenda

PINEHURST — Tuesday’s city council meeting had a common theme as councilmembers discussed two different hospital possibilities for Orange County.

The City of Pinehurst joined the growing list of Orange County communities which have adopted a resolution supporting and requesting the establishment of a Veterans Administration Medical Inpatient Hospital in Orange County. Currently, the closest VA inpatient hospitals are in Houston and Baton Rouge, La.

“This has really gotten the attention of a lot of people,” said Mayor Pete Runnels. “And it has been positive. There’s a lot of interest from the community.”

Councilman George “Mike” Anderson is just one of a reported 6,000 U.S. military veterans who reside in Orange County. He is one of those who supports the establishment of a VA hospital in Orange County.

“I’m a 100 percent disabled veteran,” Anderson explained. “I think we would benefit greatly by having (a VA hospital) here in Orange. And not just for Orange County residents, but for those in Jefferson County too. The VA facility in Beaumont is strictly outpatient only.”

Council unanimously approved the motion to adopt the resolution following a brief discussion and then turned toward its next topic, which was discussion of assisting the City of Orange with the cost of a feasibility study for the location of a new public hospital in Orange County.

“The City of Orange has asked Pinehurst to assist with the cost of a feasibility study, and this cost is based on population,” said Robbie Hood, Pinehurst City Administrator. “So (the Pinehurst) part would be $840 of the $40,000 cost.”

Runnels said the study would help determine where a hospital could be constructed to best service the needs of all Orange County residents and others who wish to utilize the facility.

“No one knows where this hospital would even be located, but the center of the county is around the FM 1442 area (near Interstate 10),” Runnels explained. “The hospital in Orange doesn’t really draw from outside the area, like Mauriceville or Vidor or even Bridge City or Orangefield.”

Although nothing is set in stone on the creation of a new, full-service hospital in the Orange County area, Tommy Gunn, the city attorney for Pinehurst, said there are groups expressing interest.

“There has been some interest from outside entities about coming into Orange County,” Gunn said. “It wouldn’t be a large facility, but something along the lines of eight to twelve-beds (for patient care).”

Hood said having a hospital in Orange County is important for not just the citizenry, but for growth of the county as well.

“This area needs a hospital,” he said. “It’s an important factor when new businesses and industry are looking at growth or coming into an area.”

Following the discussion, council unanimously approved taking action to assist the City of Orange with its feasibility study.