Court hears MCH’s money plea

Members of the Ector County Commissioners Court indicated Wednesday that they would be in no hurry to make a decision about Medical Center Hospital’s Tuesday request for $7 million from the $16.1 million the county has received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The county is expected to receive the same amount sometime next year.

Told by MCH President-CEO Russell Tippin that the hospital needs to buy more ventilators and hire additional staff to handle a spike in COVID-19 cases, Commissioners Greg Simmons and Don Stringer said Tippin’s was only one of several such requests that they had just received from local entities.

“Other hospitals have reached out and other entities feel like they need part of it,” said Simmons, who serves Precinct 2. “We just need to go through it slowly and not make any rash decisions. We have to figure out what all the money can be used for internally for the county and make sure we’re doing everything we need to be doing for the health department, for example.

“If we have any excess at the end, we will find ways to farm it out to the community and other entities. It’s too early at this point to tell if anything is even possible and what the other requests out there will be.”

Stringer, the Precinct 3 commissioner, said the court “will review all the requests and see what we can spend the money for.

“We have to do a lot of thinking and number-crunching,” Stringer said. “All the taxing entities throughout the county want some of the relief money and we would be happy to accommodate them, but we have to see how much there is to allocate responsibly.”

Efforts to get comments from Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Gardner, Precinct 4 Commissioner Armando Rodriguez and County Judge Debi Hays were unsuccessful.

Tippin said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference that the hospital had 65 COVID patients, its biggest number since January. “We added 11 patients overnight and we’re facing a severe nursing shortage,” he said.

“That’s the reality of where we are. We’ve reached the danger point now.”

The federal government last year sent MCHS dozens of ventilators, but most of those were disposable after a one-time use, Tippin said. The hospital was required to send the non-disposable ventilators back to the government earlier this year.

Staff Writer Federico Martinez contributed to this report.