Wednesday, September 10, 2014
COLUMN: ON DEMOLITION OF MEMORIAL by Alicia Gallegos Gomez
Whether it is at birth, sometime in between or at the end of life, at some point you or someone in your family will need health care. And when that time comes, you want the very best for Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad, yourself and your children.
In 1942, the Baptist Foundation donated approximately 18.5 acres of land for the construction of a hospital facility to address the health care needs of Nueces County. In 1944, Nueces County taxpayers built Memorial Hospital. In 1946, and 1952 the taxpayers of Nueces County invested again in Memorial Hospital by expanding services and adding beds and in 1964, a second building adjacent to Memorial Hospital was constructed and the name was changed to Memorial Medical Center.
In 1967, at the recommendation of esteemed County Judge, Robert Barnes, the taxpayers of Nueces County collectively invested in health care in a special election by creating the Nueces County Hospital District to oversee county health care services. This action included the creation of the Hospital District Board of Managers to manage the investment for the Taxpayer and the authorization, by law, to levy an ad valorem tax.
The revenue generated by the self-imposed ad valorem tax has made it possible to expand, renovate, and/or re-equip MMC in 1975, 1982, 1989, and 1993 representing millions of investment dollars by the taxpayers of Nueces County. As a result of this investment, Nueces County taxpayers today rely on a hospital complex easily accessible from all parts of the county and neighboring counties as well as a Trauma 2 Level designation.
This investment by the taxpayers has yielded positive returns for 70 years. No other hospital in Nueces County can make this claim. Keep in mind, the taxpayer has always owned the County Hospital. Why would you, the Taxpayer, want to give away this kind of investment to a corporation with a corporate office in Dallas, Texas?
The recent proposal by Christus Spohn to demolish the County Hospital on Morgan and move all services to their Shoreline unit has sparked controversy throughout Nueces County and the neighboring communities.
The Hospital District Board is almost ready to send the proposal to demolish the County Hospital to the Commissioner’s Court for a final vote and their stamp of approval and for all practical purposes it will be a “done deal” as has been predicted from the onset. But is it really a “done deal” or can Nueces County voters reverse the devastation that will result if indeed a corporation is handed our tax dollars to spend on expansion of their physical plant which is in the direct path of potential hurricanes and gas releasing accidents at the refineries? Do we really want patients to breathe the black dust from refinery row or to be ill and in the direct path of a destructive hurricane?
Why would we allow a corporation to demolish our investment, abscond with ad valorem tax revenues and relocate the Level 2 Trauma Center to their Shoreline unit? Should the medical health care of a community be determined by 5 men and a corporation? As taxpayers, we must protect our investment. If the County Commissioners Court wants to give away an investment paid for by the taxpayer, then the taxpayer should have a voice in the decision. This can only be done by putting this issue to a vote. The Commissioner’s Court should call for an election in lieu of the taxpayers having to petition the Court for a vote.
Instead of talking about demolishing MMC and naming a clinic after a local civil rights leader, let’s talk about reclaiming our investment and ending all agreements with Christus Spohn, and using our local tax money to build a first class medical/teaching campus and upgrading the Level 2 Trauma Center to a Level 1. Let us make Corpus Christi/Nueces County the place to go to for quality health care.
Instead of giving away our investment, let’s talk about creating a teaching medical hospital facility campus to meet the present and future needs of Nueces County and the Coastal Bend communities in the areas of medical services, JOBS and higher educational opportunities in the affiliated medical health science fields. Health care is one of the fastest growing industries in South Texas and encourages the growth of affiliated medical services.
A teaching medical hospital facility campus would consist of:
1) MMC Hospital with a free standing 24-hour Clinic. Ambulance cases will go directly to ER, and a Clinic triage will determine if the patient needs to go to ER or whether they can make an appointment to return to the clinic the next day.
2) Specialty Rehabilitation Hospital for Veterans and patients continuing to need critical medical care and rehabilitation services after being released from the hospital and/or ICU. The Veterans Specialty Rehabilitation Hospital will include an outpatient dialysis center. South Texas does not have a Veterans Hospital and research reflects that 98% of veterans need specialty care rather than hospital care. Corpus Christi does not have an outpatient dialysis clinic for patients that use a trach for breathing assistance and g-tube for nutrition.
3) An affiliated medical health science educational component includes Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Physician’s Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Social Workers, EMTs, Intern/Resident programs, etc. At the present time, TXAMU-CC, TAMUK, DelMar, Moody High School, and area businesses are spending lots of money focusing on affiliated and medical health science professions training programs and degrees. An affiliated medical health science educational component would provide students and interns/residents with a place to obtain a certification or degree(s), practice public health and complete their clinical practicum programs while providing support to the medical services at the MMC campus and other medical facilities in and around the Coastal Bend.
4) Chronic Health Diseases/Diabetic Clinic with a fitness center. If we as a community want to decrease the incidence of chronic health diseases and diabetes in our community and save lives and money we must invest in a clinic, fitness center and educational facility to achieve the goal.
The tipping point is NOW…..As residents of Nueces County, are we willing to continue to tax ourselves and support a bond program to build a world class medical/educational facility here in Corpus Christi? Are we willing to demand that our County Hospital not be downgraded to a Clinic? Or will we stand by while the Commissioner’s Court approves the demolition of our county hospital and gives our tax dollars to a corporation whose home office isn’t even in Corpus Christi?
-- ALICIA GALLEGOS GOMEZ