After months of grieving the loss of having a hospital open the Pauls Valley community got some much needed good news this week.
It came with two city votes this past Tuesday night allowing a medical group to open the local hospital building as an urgent care facility.
The move allows the Southern Plains Medical Group to move forward with plans to open the new care facility as soon as possibly this October.
Adding to it all is officials with both the city and Southern Plains say they're still working to get a renewal for the hospital's license at the time of its closure last fall as a way of someday getting a full hospital open again all the way.
“They can proceed with opening it up as an urgent care facility,” said Mayor Jocelyn Rushing. “They can proceed with getting it ready for operation.”
Vice Mayor Shirl Montgomery Milligan agreed allowing the urgent care center to open up is what's best for the community.
She's quick to add the real goal is to get a full hospital back open in Pauls Valley after its closure in October 2018.
“It's not our ultimate goal, which is to have a hospital that's fully operational,” Milligan said.
“This is a necessary step to get it open for the needs of the citizens.”
After a closed door discussion Bonnie Meisel was the third city council and hospital authority member to vote for a formal agreement allowing Southern Plains to use the hospital building and grounds as an urgent care facility and the hospital equipment still inside.
Mike Schuster of Southern Plains said moments after the votes this action is a good first step, especially since a license it not needed to open an urgent care facility in the hospital building.
“The plan is to get it opened as an urgent care,” Schuster said.
“We're targeting, hopefully, opening it sometime in October. It will be open seven days a week, 12 hours a day.
“We still need to hire staff. We'll be looking to the community for that.”
He listed out nursing, X-ray and lab as some of the services to be offered at the center once it's open.
Schuster admits there is a difference between an urgent care center and a hospital.
“An urgent care facility is like a walk-in clinic,” he said.
“A hospital will have a higher level of emergency care available.”
Schuster confirms the effort is still on to get the local hospital's acute care license at the time of its closure renewed by the Oklahoma Department of Health, specifically the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Right now the license is described as “inactive” as the most recent renewal was scheduled for Nov. 30, 2018, which was just a few weeks after the hospital closed. The actual closing date was Oct. 12, 2018.
If a new license is needed it could threaten to keep the hospital closed since it would cost a few million dollars to get the facility up to new building standards for 2019.
“I'm not going to give up. I don't think the city is going to give up,” Schuster said about the push for a license renewal.