Letter to the editor,

Last week I had some questions about the hospital district vote, in early voting now with voting day Valentine’s Day, some have been answered.

About the Roger Marks Foundation: I saw Mike Ford, Precinct 2 commissioner, and he told me that the foundation has never donated or otherwise given money to the Glen Rose Medical Foundation dba Glen Rose Medical Center, but has worked with scholarships for students. That settles the question for me as to whether he should recuse himself from any votes regarding the hospital district; no conflict of interest being on the board if no direct monetary ties to GRMF. I am relieved to hear this as I admire and respect Ford’s actions as a county commissioner.

Somervell County owns the land, the building and the equipment. Should any entity that is leasing from Somervell County fail or go out of business or change hands, Somervell County would continue to own the same, including the improvements being made to the building. That also presumably includes the earmark money that Rep. Chet Edwards has gotten for the hospital. The money belongs, according to Ford, to the county and not the Glen Rose Medical Foundation dba Glen Rose Medical Center and would be used by whoever the next tenant was using Somervell’s property (or the taxpayer funded hospital district).

I wondered what would happen to that $14.5 million certificate of obligation for the GRMC should same change hands or fail. Would the taxpayers be on the hook to pay back that approximately $750,000 per year payment in the form of raised taxes? Ford said the money for the CO is already budgeted for, and so, if GRMC/GRMF was no longer the leasee of the building or otherwise unable to make the payments, the taxpayers would not be additionally picking up the cost of the CO.

I continue to have questions about why the hospital district would be subsidizing in any form the clinics in Meridian and Pecan Plantation. The Bosque County News of Jan. 28 quotes Rose Beck, of the Glen Rose Health Care Partnership (which name cannot be found on the SOS Web site) as saying that the Glen Rose Medical Center is not a partner to the sale and will own no part of the home, but “has lent support to the transaction and plans to operate the clinic at Meridian Manor once the sale is complete… In addition,… the Glen Rose hospital will provide support for the operation of the home and has already done so.”

She goes on to mention an engineer that came over at no cost to look at the home. Since I was told by a board member that the taxpayers in the Somervell County hospital district would be paying in some fashion also for the clinics (and I don’t want to), I think this needs to be spelled out in some great detail and with documentation.

Finally, I don’t know that I am against a hospital district, per se, as the proposed taxes to cover it seem reasonable. My two issues are 1. public accountability. I called the Texas Attorney General’s office to ask if an elected hospital board chose to contract the actual running of the hospital with a private foundation (ala GRMF), would the records be private? I was told no, that once a hospital district is established and taxpayers fund it, the records of the private foundation become public record. So, despite Mr. Marks’ comments that he would like to have a public board and a private foundation with private records, once tax money is involved, it cannot be that way. My second issue is that I’d like to see some sort of bidding layer between the election of the hospital board (should this election pass) and the decision on who will actually run Somervell County premises aka hospital district. It may well be that the Glen Rose Medical Center is the best entity to run the premises, but it shouldn’t be a given that the board automatically contracts out without opening up the process to other potential hospital management entities. Ford suggested that it may be that the answer to that issue is to invite county citizens who believe the same way as I do to run for the board.

Below is a link to the September 2008 Commissioner’s meeting.


Hoping you get out and vote, regardless of whether you agree with me!

Debbie Harper

Somervell County