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County contributes to hospital study

The possibility of having a new hospital in Orange County continues to gain momentum as the county approved contributing funds to a study.

The Orange County Commissioners met on Monday afternoon to discuss numerous topics, but a key item on the agenda was a presentation by Dr. Shawn Oubre from the City of Orange about the likelihood of the county contributing to a group study on the creation of a new hospital to serve the people of Orange County.

Oubre informed commissioners after extensive research, NewLight Healthcare, a hospital management and consulting company, was chosen to conduct the study on the possibility of a new hospital. The group has successfully helped other groups and hospitals within the region, including the Winnie Hospital, operate more efficiently and successfully.

With a population of approximately 82,000 residents in Orange County, which includes 51 percent of those residents living in non-incorporated areas, the cost of the study has been split into cost-related segments based on population. Depending on the size of the county or city’s population, their requested participation would be in relation to that figure. The county’s requested amount to participate in the study was $14,820.

Oubre said the City of Orange, in which he serves as city manager, has already contributed to the study, as have the cities of Vidor and West Orange. Pinehurst and Bridge City are expected to make a decision soon.

The Stark Foundation and Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce have also contributed to the group study, which is anticipated to cost approximately $36,700 and take 90 days to complete.

“The one thing we have learned from other areas which have lost hospitals is that time is the biggest problem,” Oubre said. “The longer a city or county goes without a hospital, the more difficult it is to get one back.”

For this reason, Oubre said NewLight Healthcare had already been contracted three weeks ago to conduct the field study ahead of approval from the remaining cities and the county.

Oubre stated NewLight Healthcare is a group which excels in helping capture Federal funds, which could prove beneficial to the construction and other costs related to a new hospital.

The study will address numerous topics, such as services offered at the facility and strategic alignment, retention of physicians and more.

Commissioners approved the request for funding with a unanimous vote.

In other news, commissioners held a random drawing to name three people to the Reclassification Committee. Each member of Commissioners Court nominated one person for the committee. The three people selected were Brad Rutledge, Stephen Lee and Woodrow Dugas.

Prior to the conclusion of Commissioners Court, Orange County Judge Brint Carlton stated that although the Commissioners Court opted to halt its relationship with the Orange County Economic Development Corporation at its meeting on July 27, it does not mean the EDC is not an option as the county moves forward.

“The EDC is still receiving funding from the county through the October 1st,” Carlton said. “The County is working to consider all options. Perhaps that is working with the Orange County EDC in a restructured format, or with a new executive director, or maybe a third party organization or even someone from in the county taking over.”

No other details were available about the future direction of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation, which has been under the guidance of Director Bobby Fillyaw since 2005.