Medical Center Health System President and CEO Rick Napper talked to attendees of the Ector County Republican Women’s luncheon Wednesday about the challenges in healthcare.

Sharing some national statistics with the crowd, Napper said part of his intent in sharing the statistics was to “scare the crap” out of everyone.

There are about 5,700 hospitals in the nation right now and in less than 10 years, the prediction is that 25 percent of those will no longer exist, he said.

“Hospitals are going through the same issues as the bankers went through … it’s making it very difficult on small, rural hospitals and smaller hospitals to exist,” he said.

Throughout the nation there are currently about 900,000 doctors across the country and it’s anticipated that in 15 years, there will be about 15 percent less than that. On top of that, the doctor — who used to be a leading person in the community — is now being villainized, Napper said.

“What I can tell you is, people that believe physicians are overpaid in this country need to readjust what they’re looking at. I believe police officers are underpaid, I believe teachers are underpaid. Doctors are paid what they should be paid for what they’re doing,” he said.

“And we’re trying to make them villains, when in a few years, physicians will be so understaffed that you will not be able to find a physician.”

The CEO said it is hard to keep physicians in the community and they’re losing physicians all the time because there is such a shortage. For the first time in the history of the United States, he said they’re not able to fill residency programs.

By the year 2025, it was predicted there will be a physician shortage of 130,000 and Napper said that just continues to grow.

Throwing out another statistic, he said 20 percent of all physicians are hospital employees today and the American Hospital Association predicts that in just seven years, 85 percent of physicians will be employees of hospitals.

“Why do you think that is?” he asked the crowd.

People shouted out answers like “lawsuits,” “insurance,” and “guaranteed income.”

“I know the biggest one because I talk to doctors every day. The biggest one is they’re tired of dealing with bureaucracy,” Napper said. “My daughter’s a physician. She calls me about three times a week, sometimes crying because for every hour she spends in the office she spends an hour at home doing medical records, keeping up with home health visits. That’s time that could be spent with her — with my grandchildren. It’s very cumbersome. So, physicians are tired of it.”

Focusing specifically on MCHS, Napper said the health system creates about 18,000 jobs. It’s estimated each physician produces about 50 jobs in the community.

“We have a little over 2,000 employees at Medical Center, but if you don’t have Medical Center, you don’t have a place for the physicians to practice — 15,000 jobs go out the door with those physicians,” he said.

The CEO also talked about the things that keep him up at night.

There are $250 billion in costs to process 30 billion healthcare transactions a year, he said, adding that “the billing process in the United States is broken.”

“It is so bureaucratic and it is actually set up to stop hospitals from getting paid,” Napper added.

A mistake as little as accidentally putting “male” instead of “female” can cause an insurance company to reject a claim.

“That’s how silly it is,” he said.

Last year, the district spent $71 million to replace their computer system and he said it’s not working well and some of the people in the room said they have experienced that. But it was required because the computer system they had was not certified by the federal government.

“We have tremendous challenges at Medical Center Health System and if you have any CEO that stands up here that is running a hospital currently and says to you that everything is fine in their hospital, they are either lying to you or they’re not in contact with their organization,” he said.

“It is becoming so complex that it is becoming very difficult to manage it and to keep up with it and see what the requirements are.”

He also told the group he has accepted those challenges and the work they’ve got to do is tough, but he can’t do it without the community.

“I am not gonna quit on Medical Center and my expectation is, you won’t either,” he said.

Following Napper’s presentation and a presentation from local businesswoman Sondra Eoff, who talked about the hotel and conference center being built in downtown Odessa, one woman talked about the healthcare challenges in her own community.

Winkler County Commissioner Hope Williams said she felt their hospital district had been positively impacted by MCHS’ leadership.

“I’m from Winkler County and our poor little hospital in Winkler County was in the dumps and Representative (Brooks) Landgraf (R-Odessa) got us in touch with MCH staff. They came over, they’re helping us get on our feet, of course we’re a hospital district now, but this is the first time in I don’t know how long that our hospital has operated in the black. And I feel that MCH had a lot to do with that and I just want to say thank you,” Williams said.

Napper said he met with the CEO of the Winkler hospital district in January, who is actually an employee of MCHS, and they talked about how they felt it was Medical Center’s responsibility to serve the six surrounding counties because “we’re only as good as those hospitals that surround us.”