Hospital district distributes grant funds, talks “mobile clinic”

The Big Bend Regional Hospital District distributed grant funds for “proposed health care related services and initiatives” and revoked a previous $200,000 allocation during their Thursday evening meeting last week in Presidio.

The board first approved a $65,000 grant for Terlingua Fire and EMS to purchase training equipment and fund the hiring of one new EMT basic. Greg Henington, the new District 3 director, abstained.

They unanimously approved $75,000 for Brewster County EMTs, paramedics and operational costs. The board said they would spend $5,000 per EMT for all EMT fund requests, so $10,000 was allocated for two Brewster EMTs.

$22,000 was approved for Big Bend Medical student housing, with board member Bob Rice abstaining.

However, some applications for grant funds were denied. Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend requested funds for improvements to safety, lighting and weatherproofing to their outdoor area. Rice, along with Chairman Esther Howard, James “Cuatro” White and Greg Henington voted the proposal down with no explanation.

The board then unanimously voted down a request by Presidio EMS for funds to subsidize emergency care for indigent, uninsured residents. Howard said the request didn’t follow guidelines, and their policies do not allow funds to be used in the requested manner. But $10,000 was allocated to Presidio EMS for two EMTs.

Howard then said she needed “a motion to rescind the motion made June 27, 2019, entering into an interlocal agreement with Brewster County for a Terlingua health clinic.”

Chairman Howard explained that the district had a grant for $200,000 for a south county clinic that had been approved and was still pending.

The chairman explained to the board and audience that the agreement for a Terlingua clinic was never really outlined correctly, organizations backed out on donating land for the clinic and the board now believed “the $200,000 could be put to better use,” and that they would “come up with something the taxpayers would benefit from instead of a clinic open maybe once a week.”

It was then that Vice Chairman Buddy Cavness mentioned the idea of using the $200,000 for a mobile clinic, with the help of the Big Bend Hospital. He said it would be $200,000 spent on a bus for seven days a week, versus spending the money for a permanent clinic only open one day a week in Terlingua. The expense of building and staffing a mobile clinic like that were not detailed.

Earlier in the meeting, Big Bend Regional Medical Center CEO Rick Flores provided a report during an agenda item about the medical center and its collaborative programs. It was during that time that the CEO explained the mobile clinic concept. He said the hospital is looking into “a big bus that can be at Marathon, Terlingua, Candelaria, Marfa and Fort Davis.”

Flores said after being with the center for a year and a half, he has run the numbers and all the data “just doesn’t support” something that’s permanent like a traditionally built clinic in only one community, like Terlingua.

The $200,000 grant was then rescinded by the board.

In other business, the district accepted bids on properties held by the county for delinquent taxes. Each taxing entity votes on the sale of these properties and the motivation is to return the land to the tax rolls so that the county can once again earn revenue from it.

The hospital district also unanimously voted to move its investments from West Texas National Bank to Lone Star Investments. “We have the money in an investment fund but we’re not getting a good return on it,” Chairman Howard said.