County Judge speaks at Golden K Kiwanis concerning Hospital District
Published 12:04 pm Monday, January 23, 2017
By Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader
Closing the emergency room at Baptist Hospital in Orange has many people concerned about the quality of healthcare available in Orange County. To help educate the citizens about a possible hospital district, Orange County Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton spoke at the Golden K Kiwanis on Wednesday.
Members of the group asked several pertinent questions.
Golden K member: Who is going to pick up the cost of the ambulances?
Judge: Acadian Ambulances has to meet certain response times and with the closing of the emergency room services at Baptist Hospital, this will increase travel time and could decrease response times. While, they are a private company, the changes could affect the number of drivers needed which increase the cost of operating in Orange. We certainly do not want them to leave too. I understand the cost of crossing the rivers is $800.
GK: What happened to the money from the sell of the County Hospital to Hermann Memorial?
J: Part of the agreement was the hospital provided indigent care. Orange County now pays between $400,000 -600,000 a year for indigent care.
GK: As far as economic development, this will have an impact on Orange County. Not having a hospital is not helping.
J: For industries on Chemical Row, an accident can be horrific, but outside of industrial the Chic Fil A and Starbucks want a place their employees can seek aid as well. This can impact on recruiting and retaining businesses. Louisiana is set up differently than Texas, they need one signature from the governor to locate there. It will be even worse now without a hospital.
GK: Employees were shocked, upset and completely devastated by the closing. Due to age, transportation issues, some of them cannot got to Beaumont for other employment. What immediate actions are being done?
J: It affects property value too. A loss of a job means they are not shopping so they are not paying sales tax. When they can’t shop, that affects schools, county and city governments. It hurts the overall growth of the community. The 2000 census showed the average age in Orange County as 32, in 2002 census it was 34. That tells us young people are leaving and not coming back.
We have tried the private investors route, and we are not giving up on finding investors. Instead of waiting, we had to ask what can we do to help ourselves.
A hospital district is not owned by the government, it is it’s own entity. As Judge, I cannot advocate one way or the other. I can tell you the impact of services.
A hospital district can be one county, such as in Harris County, or it can serve two – three counties.
The one in Liberty County lost the election the first time.
A hospital district can own the facility and property or it can contract out with an existing hospital or it could be a mix and match. That will be up to the board to decide. A board which has yet to be created.
Commissioners Court will form the board, but after that, the members will be selected by voters.
As far as the tax rate, we don’t know because we do not know which format the board will decide. We do know the cap, the largest amount allowed, is 75 cents per $100. In Liberty County it is 9 cents per $100. They tell us they are struggling with that amount.
When it is presented to the voters, it has to say the maximum amount at the time of the vote to determine the cap, the largest amount allowed by the voters as long as it does not exceed 75 cents per $100.
A hospital district allows certain avenues for state and federal funding. For example, for $1million Liberty County receives $5 million. That is not to say that is what we will get, but an example of the amount of funding that may be available.
Now the board could try to purchase the current hospital or it could decide to build a new one.
The district would take over all indigent care from the Orange County government.
There are two paths, going through Legislature and then get it to the voters, or a petition, which once the signatures are validated by Commissioners Court, it goes to a county wide vote. A final determination on which path we will take will be decided shortly.
So there could be a vote as early as May or in November.
GK: Did this study decide on a suggested tax rate?
J: The study did not look at forming a hospital district but what kind of health care. We have asked for an update with a suggested tax rate.
Orange County Commissioners will hold a Town Hall meeting at 2 p.m. and at 7 p.m. On Thursday, January 26, at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center, 11475 FM 1442 in Orange to discuss the proposed Hospital District such as how it works, what it takes to get it started, pros and cons of a Hospital District, how board members get appointed to the district, etc.. Residents are encouraged to email their questions prior to the meeting to better serve you.
Brint Carlton, County Judge – firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnny Trahan, Commissioner Precinct One – email@example.com
Barry Burton, Commissioner Precinct Two – firstname.lastname@example.org
John Gothia, Commissioner Precinct Three – email@example.com
Jody Crump, Commissioner Precinct Four – firstname.lastname@example.org