The Somervell County Hospital PAC is working to rally support.

The committee, which includes about 30 business leaders and community members, is fanning out across the county asking registered voters to sign a petition calling for a hospital district election in May.

The committee is focused on creating a taxing district to benefit the long-term future of Glen Rose Medical Center (GRMC), according to John Bailey, PAC co-chair.

"We would like to see an item on the May ballot for the creation of a hospital district in Somervell County, a taxing district, supporting the local hospital," Bailey said.

Committee members must gather at least 100 signatures by mid January, when the petition will be submitted to county officials.

Operations at GRMC are currently overseen by the Somervell County Hospital Authority board of directors. Governance of the hospital was transferred to the seven-member board, a group of volunteers who were appointed to oversee administration and make recommendations for improvements and address budgetary issues, in January 2010.

The authority board supports the formation of a district, according to chairman of the board Larry Shaw, who said the future of GRMC is "scary" without the proposed taxing district.

"I believe the (hospital authority) board is of the opinion that the only way to ensure the long-term future of the hospital is by the creating of a district," Shaw said.

Through ongoing discussions, County Judge Mike Ford has said there are essentially three options in considering the hospital's future - the other two being maintaining current county operation and leasing the facility to a management company.

"The county has budgetary issues of its own," Shaw said, adding if fears that Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant will decrease in value become a reality, so will county revenue.

And outside management does not guarantee the local hospital will remain open.

"There is only one group that has expressed interest in the lease and there is no guarantee they will not eventually bail out of the county and shrink local services to nothing," Shaw added.

That mindset is the same ideas driving the PAC.

"I (and committee members) believe Somervell County should have a locally controlled hospital," Bailey said. "Yes, there are nearby hospitals in Granbury, Cleburne and Stephenville, but we support having one within the community to serve local residents."

Bailey also said GRMC is in "crisis."

"At this point, it is not funded to its full potential," Bailey said.

The hospital does not have an intensive care, cardiac rehabilitation or chemotherapy units and MRI services are only offered twice a week, Bailey said.

Meanwhile, Shaw said if a hospital district is formed, it will remove the burden of an estimated $2.7 million in operating costs from the county.

"The hospital district would inherit the debt and responsibilities of maintaining the medical center," Shaw said.

The petition will be submitted to County Judge Mike Ford on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and filed in the office of County Clerk Candy Garrett. Once the signatures are verified, commissioners will hold a hearing no later than March 1 to consider granting the petition and calling an election.

If the items makes it to the May ballot and voters support the formation of the hospital district, the impact on local taxpayers would not exceed the 17.5 cent tax rate maximum established in the petition without voter approval, Shaw said.

"The people who live here deserve to continue receiving local care and services," Shaw said. "If we are going to grow as a retirement community as many people believe, we must have a local hospital."

For more information, call Bailey at (817) 676-3793.