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Trinity Standard - July 2009
TRINITY – Efforts to add 15 new patient rooms and a surgical/recovery suite to the existing East Texas Medical Center-Trinity moved one step forward this week when members of the local hospital board reviewed preliminary plans for the work.
During their meeting Monday, the Trinity Memorial Hospital District’s board were given the preliminary design for the new patient wing.
Hospital Administrator Warren Robicheaux told the board that the plans are still being refined and that officials with ETMC’s building committee would be coming down from Tyler in a few weeks to formally present the finished plans for the board’s review.
TMHD Board President Larry King noted that the latest design has been altered from previous layouts.
“These plans do not extend the building as far to the north as earlier designs,” he noted.
The latest design still calls for a new wing to be added onto the north side of the hospital.
A total of 15 new patient rooms as well as a 5,475-square-foot surgical and recovery area would be built.
“This will be a whole new hospital when this is completed,” King said.
ETMC officials hope to begin construction on the new wing sometime this fall. A completion date has not yet been set.
Although the Tyler-based ETMC system will be handling the construction, when completed the new wing will become the property of the hospital district.
ETMC currently operates the local hospital under a long-term lease from TMHD.
Funds to cover the construction are coming indirectly from the hospital district.
Under the hospital lease agreement, the district pays ETMC $300,000 per year to cover the cost of providing indigent health care to local residents.
By paying this money in advance, hospital officials have used it in conjunction with a Medicare program known as the Upper Payment Limits (UPL). Under the program, the money is turned into Medicare, which then returns it with a 160 percent match for use for indigent care services.
For instance, earlier this month TMHD’s board made a $300,000 deposit into the UPL program and ETMC should get back more than $750,000 from Medicare.
While this money must be used for indigent care services, it will free up other ETMC money which is then used to cover the cost of adding the new wing onto the local hospital.
This is the same system used to fund the construction of the new health clinic that opened earlier this year adjacent to the local hospital.
At present, TMHD has paid in advance their contracted indigent care costs through 2013.
Public record requests
During the meeting, the board discussed a public records request submitted in June by former hospital board member Tommy Turner.
The board noted this request, along with a number of previous requests for information submitted by unsuccessful board candidate Jerry Coma, have been passed on to the hospital district’s attorney to make sure they are properly handled.
“We are being bombarded with requests for information and it’s costing us a lot of money to comply with them,” King told the board.
He noted that their attorney bills them at a rate of $250 per hour plus any expenses incurred in handling the information requests.
Included in the open record request filed by Turner in June are copies of all voting combination forms and voter lists from the May 9 election, including early voting and election day forms and lists and all mail-in ballots whether or not they were deemed as acceptable.
In addition, Turner asked for all correspondence between board members or district officials regarding the May 9 election and all billing invoiced from TMHD attorneys from March 1 to May 31.
King noted that the district’s attorneys are checking with the Texas Attorney General’s office to make sure the information requested by Turner falls within the state’s Open Records Act.
Board member Carlyn Bluis asked that records be kept regarding exactly how much money is being spent by the hospital district to comply with the open records requests.
Board members noted that in the past, Coma has criticized the board for not reducing the district’s tax rate and Bluis said it would be interesting for her and others to know how much these open records requests were actually costing the taxpayers.
It was noted that while the cost of making copies of documents can be charged to the person making the request, the fees charged by the attorneys cannot be passed on.
During the meeting, the hospital board also:
• Learned that U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) has scheduled a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at the hospital. Brady wants to meet with board members and health care professionals to discuss health care reform issues being presented in the U.S. Congress. The meeting currently is scheduled from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
• Learned that the number of patients utilizing the new health care clinic adjacent to the hospital has increased to a new record high of almost 1,800 during June. The previous high mark was 1,200 but had generally been averaging between 900 and 1,000 patients per month in the old clinic located on Main Street in downtown Trinity.
Robicheaux told the board he expects the number to climb above 2,000 patients per months by this fall.
• Authorized the hospital’s financial advisor CPA Thomas Ramey to seek proposals from area accounting firms to have the annual audit performed on the hospital district’s finances.