Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

January 6, 2014

Third time a must to save hospital

Ezra Mann
The Associated Press

emann@pvdemocrat.com — Finding a pathway to keeping Pauls Valley General Hospital around for the long term has at times appeared to include as many steps backwards as forward.

This included two previous attempts in 2013 to take a permanent half cent sales tax proposal before voters. In both cases the measure was rescinded.

However, it was during an emergency PV Hospital Authority meeting Thursday that trustees unanimously agreed to try one more time, hoping that the third time will be the charm, this time on the March 4 ballot.

“We’ve had this thing two times before and we’re prepared to take the same action,” said City Attorney Jay Carlton, noting how it became something to immediately act on as the election board required it that day and no later in order for it to end up on the March 4 ballot.

“We didn’t want to let this window close.”

Hospital Authority Trustee Patrick Grimmett explained city leaders felt more prepared to go forward this time because of their work with current managing partner Newlight Healthcare.

This was also the best chance to keep patients from leaving the area for procedures the hospital could easily add to its service line, he said.

“We went through our different options trying to have an affiliated partner like St. Anthony, like Mercy; we’ve kind of exhausted those avenues and felt it was best to get the hospital on firmer ground,” said Grimmett, adding that they wanted to allow a chance for Newlight to get in there while digging down deep to see what they thought and only recently have they reached that point.

“We feel confident with this new management group and in order to upgrade the equipment and the facility to some degree and to provide the type of health care we think is needed for this town, a sales tax is imperative,” he said.

“At the same time it’s a benefit to the community. If you need an MRI, a mammogram, an ultra sound, things of that nature, you won’t have to drive 30 minutes to an hour for a 10-minute procedure.”

When asked if a county half cent sales tax being scheduled for the same date had any bearing on the decision to call for the city based election, Carlton responded they had intended all along to try again for the earliest possible election date.

He said they felt it would have been rushing things to try and get the tax on the ballot if they had pushed for January or February.

Carlton also pointed out how despite PVGH having had the first profitable month in quite some time, improving their revenue enough to remain open cannot subsist on things like a loan the city is already on the hook for.

The money from the sales tax will largely be used to help purchase equipment that will help them maximize their revenue potential since most of that is outdated or not functional.

“Time is of the essence, we needed the money back in September… If we don’t get the sales tax passed, we’ll be closing,” said Carlton.

“We couldn’t honestly and fairly present it to the public then because we couldn’t honestly and fairly say the money would be going to the right plan to save it and it happened again in November.

“If we don’t get that money we’re not going to have a hospital.”