PSP announces $4 million commitment to health sciences building

With a commitment of $4 million from the Permian Strategic Partnership the Wood Health Sciences Building at Odessa College is within striking distance of its goal.

The announcement was made in the Saulsbury Campus Center at OC with officials from the college, board of trustees, Medical Center Hospital, PSP and other officials on hand live and virtually.

The health sciences building, which breaks ground Sept. 1, will enclose 83,000 square feet on four floors and feature instruction and community space. It also will enable more students to enroll in the School of Health Sciences programs and healthcare continuing education programs with an estimated 64 percent increase in graduates, a news release said.

The cost of the building is about $40 million and PSP’s investment brings them to $37,621,500, Vice President of Advancement Jacqui Gore said in a news conference Thursday at the Saulsbury Campus Center at OC.

“We set a goal about a year ago, which seemed maybe a little bit far-fetched that we wanted to hit 90 percent. Last July, that seemed like kind of a crazy idea probably,” Gore said. “But our partners have joined in along the way knowing that healthcare needs are growing in the Permian Basin, and we were experiencing this pandemic that was really taxing healthcare needs, so it made it even more apparent.”

Gore added that PSP’s investment is vital in helping OC construct the health sciences building.

“But more importantly, the 17 major oil and gas company leaders … unanimously approved Odessa College’s request for $4 million,” Gore said.

The endorsement will help open doors for other companies and partners as the college completes the Wood Health Sciences Building, she said, and continue with its Vision 2030 construction projects.

“… With PSPs $4 million investment, community partners have pledged to invest over $22.6 million in this project,” Gore said.

PSP President and CEO Tracee Bentley thanked everyone at OC for working so collaboratively on this investment.

“The PSP brings 17 leading Permian Basin energy companies to work in partnership with leaders across our communities to address current and future challenges. Our mission is to strengthen and improve the quality of life for Permian Basin families through partnerships to develop and implement strategic plans to foster access to quality health care, superior schools, safer roads, a trained workforce and housing. As our region’s population continues to grow, so does our need for quality health care,” Bentley said. “… As we know there are currently over 500 nursing vacancies in the Permian Basin, and this will have a significant impact on hospitals, doctors’ offices, long-term healthcare facilities, home care, and schools. These ongoing vacancies lead to delayed procedures, closed floors at hospitals and recruiting and relocation costs with low retention rate just to name a few. Adding more nursing slots while providing enhanced training via space and state-of-the-art technology will increase the quality of instruction, and access to care that we so desperately need. We value our strong relationship with Odessa College and we are thankful for the leadership you provide and healthcare and many, many other things in our region. Odessa College is one of the shining stars of the Permian Basin and we are honored to be part of this critical initiative, and joining all of the other existing sponsors and supporters who share the goal of increasing access to top-notch healthcare in the Permian Basin,” Bentley added.

Julia Kiewit, PSP director of strategic initiatives, said in addition to the enhanced quality of student instruction that will be facilitated by the new building, PSP was very impressed by the placement and retention rates of graduates within the Permian Basin which aligns with the group’s goal of increasing access to the profession.

OC President Gregory Williams said PSP sees this as an investment. Williams said OC can increase by 30 to 50% in many areas the number of students it serves so that more students are able to fill the gaps.

Students will be able to complete half of their clinical requirements on campus.

Programs on tap will be dental hygiene, respiratory therapy, health information management, EKG specialist and more, Williams said.

Gore noted that for anyone who would like to contribute, there will be naming opportunities for just about every sure inch of the building.

She noted that Sept. 1 is the groundbreaking of the building, but also the kickoff of the 75th anniversary of OC.

“I think it’s pretty amazing that you see how much the community understands that health care is a big deal,” MCH CEO/President Russell Tippin said. “COVID taught us a big lesson that you don’t realize how big it is until you really need it and the community support for this program and for what it’s going to produce is pretty awesome to watch. I think that the sky’s the limit on this and it’s going to produce a lot of needed nurses and health care providers …”

Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons said the hospital has lost nurses to a mixture of COVID and normal attrition.

“We have some leaving the area, obviously with the oilfield and things like that, coming and going. But I would say that we do have some that we are losing because they are taking travel assignments, or their families are now in a position that they can stay home instead of dealing with COVID continually, so it’s an issue,” Timmons said.

Gore was excited that the goal has almost been achieved.

“I am so excited about today that this was a great day for Odessa College. We’ve worked closely with Permian Strategic Partnership over the last two years to get to this point, and I couldn’t think of a better partnership,” Gore said.

Gore added that getting those 17 major oil and gas companies to unanimously approve the college’s request to fund this project during a year where oil dropped below $0 is a huge feat.

Bentley noted that access to quality healthcare professionals is one of the number one things that companies look at when they’re trying to recruit and retain employees to the area.

“And so looking at Odessa’s nursing program, knowing it’s one of the top rated in our region already, the opportunity to expand this made perfect sense. We know that we already have over 500 nursing vacancies here in the Permian Basin. And we also know that we’re capable of filling those, and possibly more, with the program right here,” Bentley said.

She noted that PSP has played a role in expanding several healthcare programs in the Basin.

Asked about PSP’s commitment bringing the health sciences building goal so close, Bentley said she didn’t realize it until Gore told her.

“…I didn’t realize we were that close and today when Jacqui told me, oh my gosh, it made my heart very, very warm to know that we are almost there. I also didn’t realize, and Jacqui explained to me, how important our $4 million is a number and yes it’s important, but being able to leverage that to get across the finish line that makes this project even more special,” Bentley said.