Crockett County Commmisioners approved Health Services Board recommendation to keep Ozona Clinic open 24 hours Open for full article

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The Crockett County Commissioners’ Court approved to keep the Family Health Center of Ozona running as is, with 24-hour, 7 days a week care, during a special meeting Thursday night.

The commissioners accepted the recommendation of the Crockett County Care Center, Health and Emergency Services Board.

The commissioners also approved to be open to negotiations with Shannon Medical Center.

By approving this option, the county will increase the clinic payment from $500,000 to $1.2 million.

County Judge Fred Deaton also said the county will have a contract with Shannon for services.

The only representatives from Shannon Medical Center that attended the meeting were employees of the Ozona Clinic. The courtroom was also packed with local citizens.

“The board members pretty much concluded that we don’t have a choice here. We feel like we need to keep it open. By far it’s the most important facility in Ozona,” said John L. Henderson, president of the health services board.

Shannon officials had approached the health services board with three options for the clinic last month.

One was to increase the county funding to keep the clinic open with after-hours care. The other was to keep the county payment the same, but cut the after-hours care. The third was a partnership with Shannon and La Esparanza Clinic, which also included no after-hours care.

Henderson said the board discussed all the options, especially after the county built a $3 million new building with $2 million coming from tax notes. Shannon provided $275,000 worth of equipment with the promise that specialists from San Angelo would be sent to see patients in Ozona.

“We more or less shoved a bond down the taxpayers’ throat because we thought we would have specialists come in. That’s what we were promised by Shannon. We didn’t get that. I feel bad about that because I was led to believe that was going to happen. I was led to believe a lot of things by Shannon,” Henderson said. “You know folks it’s a little hard to sit there and that take. Whether we like it or not, Shannon has positioned themselves to kind of drive this ship.”

Shannon brought the options due to federal funding being eliminated that helps offset the cost of the Ozona Clinic.

Henderson also said if the after-hours portion was cut, cost to run the Crockett County EMS service would increase.

Commissioner Wesley Bean said if the after-hours was closed, Crockett County EMS would have to become a “full-time paid paramedic service.”

“This board is very conservative. We do not believe in throwing away money. This is a little bit out of our hands because we have no options here. There is no negotiating power folks. We have none. We just do not have a choice on keeping the clinic open,” Henderson said. “I think we’re going to have to spend the money to keep our clinic open. Someday you guys (the commissioners) are going to have to set the priorities here. It’s not up to us. We feel like clinic is most important.”

Deaton said Ozona is one of two rural clinics Shannon still has. The other is a small one in Big Spring.

Henderson said they talked about going to someone else, like Community Medical Center in San Angelo, or Del Rio or San Antonio, but that community would probably not be interested in taking on a rural clinic and the other locations were too far away.

Road Department Supervisor Jeffrey Stuart said if the county decided to find someone besides Shannon, the Ozona clinic employees, many who have been long-time residents of Crockett County, could be affected when it came to keeping their jobs.

Dr. Marcus Sims said changes in how payments in Medicare and Medicaid are made, as well as changes in government regulations have made healthcare tough to fund.

“I think we are going to have a major healthcare crises across the whole country. It’s going to cost to maintain what we’ve got,” Sims said.

Deaton said while Shannon was giving the county until January to make a decision, a decision needed to be made now due to the county working on the 2020 Budget that has to be approved in September.

Deaton said the county had already budgeted $725,000 for the clinic for 2020. He said if the county tax rate were to increase three-five cents, up to the 80-cent limit, that would give the county an additional $541,000.

Commissioner G.L. Bunger said that would put the county at about even for funding the additional after hours.

Deaton said Shannon officials have told them every year money could be saved by cutting the after-hours care. However, Deaton pointed out that unlike other counties in the area, Crockett County does not have to pay an additional hospital district tax and that operating the clinic is cheaper than having the additional tax.

“It does cost us money to do this. This is a year that will cost the taxpayers an increase to be able to do this. Every year we have to struggle to make a budget,” Deaton said.

Deaton also said that since the federal funding came about, the county has not had a contract with Shannon. He said the county has an affiliation agreement.

He also said there was no contract made when the new clinic was built about providing additional services or specialists.

Henderson said it would now be in the county’s best interest to have a contract.

“We need to focus on what we have now and keeping it that way,” Henderson said.

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