Health Care Town Hall Part II
By Bobby Tingle
The Orange Leader
Area residents turned out again Tuesday night at the second and final town hall meeting hosted by Lamar State College – Orange and KOGT intended to give area residents a forum for sharing and discussing the establishment of a hospital district in Orange County.
A quick survey of the room indicated less than one hundred attendees, a little less than half the number present for the first meeting held five days earlier.
Orange County Family Practitioner Dr. Robert D. Cox, a lifelong resident of Orange County and one of a few practicing doctors remaining in Orange, offered a point of view from within the medical community.
“This is a vote about a hospital or not,” said Cox. “There will not be a hospital if this is not passed.”
The concerns voiced were a repetition of those expressed five days ago; Orange County health care options are diminishing, a hospital is necessary in a life threatening medical emergency, doctors will not establish a practice here unless we have a hospital, we do not need more taxes, we need more information and establishing a hospital district is not a guarantee of anything.
Dean Crooks spoke out against a hospital district due to the politics involved, the additional taxes and the temptation of county officials to increase spending if voters approve.
Crooks also attempted to counter concerns about the availability of emergency care, indicating his research revealed local private emergency care providers are willing to take all patients. Others cautioned against accepting his assessment, stating ambulance service providers in Orange County are not allowed to take patients to a non-hospital facility.
Stephen Lee, a lifelong resident of Orange County, admitted hospital care is complicated. He learned of the complexities as he worked with a group of community leaders who have sought other solutions for three years. Their efforts revealed outside investors are unwilling to consider providing hospital service in Orange County unless residents are willing to provide the advantages of a hospital district.
A hospital district provides investors two advantages. The district board can offer its Medicaid number, which increases reimbursement rates for services rendered. Secondarily, they can offer the benefit of the tax receipts collected.
Early voting began December 4 at polling places conveniently located throughout Orange County. The election is scheduled for Tuesday, December 19.