Ms. Gentling and I have had a running discussion for several years about the desirability of a hospital district. She is for one and I am against, although we both agree regarding a single-payer system, with universal health care. Both of us have been very vocal about our opinions, but we do not agree on the district.

Glen Rose Medical Center asked for - and was denied - a government grant some years back, because there are too many hospitals within about 25 miles. Then private, their management asked Chet Edwards for an earmark, he got half of the amount he hoped to give them. The county commissioners then made a decision to loan GRMC $14.4 million (which amount doesn’t include the interest). Then-commissioner Mike Ford pushed for a vote before holding a required IRS hearing about whether the public wanted to lend taxpayer money to a private entity. GRMC, at that time run by appointed hospital authority, was supposed to keep that money in a separate account, but instead put it into their operating account - you may remember then-judge Walter Maynard’s surprise when there was an over $1 million shortfall in the accounts.

GRMC, for whatever reason, could not operate successfully without coming back to the county repeatedly for additional *shortfall/settle-up* money. If GRMC was scrupulous about their accounts, they wouldn’t have had an embezzlement problem and could also explain where the written contract is that allows them to transfer money without requisitions to the doctor 501a organization.

I believe GRMC spending taxpayer money at Pecan Plantation is definitely illegal. I have put in a formal complaint to the sheriff’s department and have been told by Deputy McCravey that he will look into it. Further, I believe were this to go to court, a judge would definitely see a problem with spending money in Hood County’s hospital district.

The question is not whether it’s okay to use Pecan Family Medical Center as a cash cow, as if being able to supplement one’s income from any source justifies the practice. IF that were true, then it would be fine for, say, a flower business to sell drugs to school children, because, after all, it’s bringing in additional revenue.

Here are the facts, and I suggest anyone that disputes this do some research: Somervell County Hospital District boundaries in the petition that was voted on comprise the county boundaries of Somervell County, not Hood County; the definition also indicates that tax money is to be spent in our district - “The boundaries of the District shall be coterminous with the boundaries of Somervell County. None of the territory in the district is included in another hospital district established pursuant to the laws of the State of Texas.”

Two districts cannot hold the same territory. Hood County has its own hospital district, but citizens there pay NO tax for it. That is because Hood County made a deal with private company CHS to operate Lake Granbury Medical Center. Although a district can enter into an interlocal agreement with another county to operate a clinic, there is no such agreement with Hood County.

There is an example from Yoakum County in which a clinic, without permission, operated in another’s territory. However, that can only happen if a clinic meets a *hospital purpose*, which by definition means that the entity has a public purpose. L-097 says that a hospital district is charged with the purpose of providing medical care, particularly for the needy and use of public funds for private purposes is generally prohibited. But Pecan Plantation is a “gated community with controlled access.” A Somervell County resident cannot simply walk up to the clinic - you must get permission first from the guard at the gate.

It was the height of nerve to see so many letters to the editor during the GRMC district campaign from Pecan Plantation residents who sure did want Somervell County taxpayers to vote in a district, one that they will never pay for themselves (they can’t, they are already in a district where they pay no taxes).

County commissioners have said repeatedly they would not allow the hospital to close. Most of them expected the then-appointed hospital authority members to do due diligence in exploring all options for keeping a hospital going in the county, and one of those options included leasing it to a private entity.

Larry Shaw refused to consider that option and is on record saying so. The hospital board was appointed, not elected, so the ultimate responsibility for their actions or lack of, was at the feet of the county judge and commissioners.

The situation has been made more challenging now since budgets have been decided upon for the next year, but commissioners have said they could handle change.

Ms. Gentling may see nefarious agendas by CHS, but the facts are that Lake Granbury representatives have said their intention would not have been to close the hospital. Many of us that live here are actually fine with a smaller hospital that offers good emergency services - isn’t the point of a public hospital to help out local residents and the needy who could not afford more expensive care?  If the initiative to dissolve the hospital district succeeds, definitely the commissioners would have to scramble to figure out how to run the hospital, as the money to run it, no longer budgeted, would have to come from reserves. But that might light a fire under them to do what the appointed hospital authority board (who are mostly the same people that are now temporary, unelected board members on the district) did not.

I am not one that has the amount of tax as a central issue, but many do. Not only did county taxes go up, where you might expect that if the county no longer had to pay for certain items, like indigent care, your taxes would be lower, but you are now paying an additional 10.5 cents. I also note that Mike Ford, who is listed on the Secretary of State (SoS) website as being on the Roger Marks Foundation board, gave himself a raise, as did the commissioners. I would say that county residents that enjoy giving money to the hospital do it through the Roger E. Marks Foundation, but noticed that they are inactive on the Texas SoS website, due to tax forfeiture.

It’s amusing to see Ms. Gentling push for market-oriented approaches to stay competitive, when she says, “Because patients can choose where they go for healthcare services, hospitals… compete with each other for new sources of revenue.” That’s the whole argument for having a private hospital, one that, like Lake Granbury, can operate clinics anywhere they like, and run a business to make money. In fact, that’s what Glen Rose Medical Center was several years ago, a private hospital, before they went on the public dole. Where are the private enterprise champions that believe in the free market now?  

Deb Harper

Glen Rose