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Trower: MCH has come a long way - Odessa American: Ector County Hospital District

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ECHD Board District 7 Trower: MCH has come a long way

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Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 5:45 am

For 20 years Virgil Trower has served as a board member of the Ector County Hospital District overseeing Medical Center Hospital. He is campaigning once again to retain his District 7 seat, this time facing new opponent Ben Casey Quiroz.

“The first time I ran, I told everybody that we’re gonna make Medical Center the best hospital it can be and I think we’ve come a long ways with that,” Trower said.

The real estate business owner remembers to this day something a man said to him before he ran for office for the first time. He told Trower, being in the real estate business, “if you want to bring people in, you’re not gonna to do it if you don’t have a good hospital.”

Today, Medical Center Hospital is the lead hospital for 17 counties and has the only Trauma II Emergency Room from El Paso to Fort Worth and from Lubbock to the border and it is “getting better all the time,” Trower said.

As far along as MCH has come though, challengers are saying the board has made fiscally irresponsible decisions, decisions that call their integrity into question and decisions that appear to accommodate to hospital administration when they should be questioning them.

Expansion

Medical Center Health System’s expansion and property acquisitions over the past few years has come under fire, especially after the board’s decision last year to change the funding of insurance for about 380 MCH retirees.

Defending the expansion, Trower said there were several clinics built to keep people out of the emergency room, since it is the most expensive place to treat people, and “they have been working.”

“Our mission is to give the best health care we can give at a reasonable level and that’s what we’ve tried to do. I think we’ve done a great job,” he said.

Quiroz specifically questioned if the clinics are working as efficiently as they could be, as he has visited several clinics and found empty waiting rooms with staff standing around. He also questioned why two clinics, one on JBS Parkway and one on East 42nd Street, are located within two miles of each other.

Trower said the 42nd Street clinic, which opened up after the JBS Parkway clinic, is located near Permian High School and also takes care of the north side of Odessa. Ector County Independent School District also signed a ProCare agreement to make Medical Center their preferred hospital, he added.

Trower also talked about how the North Park area has built thousands of houses in the last few years and there are not only lots of families, but a ton of children living in the area, he said.

“We’re trying to catch that north traffic and it’s coming on pretty strong, too. It’s something we’re watching real close to see how that does because it’s been a clinic for years,” Trower said, regarding the 42nd Street clinic.

While the urgent care clinics are seeing an increase in patients every year and the emergency rooms are doing considerably better, Trower said they still need to get more people from going to the emergency room for things like a runny nose or a fever.

“It’s better, but it’s more than it should be,” he said. “They might have to wait six or eight hours to get in, but that doesn’t deter them.”

Quiroz said if the hospital took some of the money they used for marketing and translated it into patient education and community education, it could help decrease the number of people going to the ER for a runny nose.

“The urgent cares are supposed to take the overflow from the ER. So, people don’t know that. I didn’t know that until I started this whole process, so the community doesn’t know that. So we need to educate the community in terms of where to go whenever they have any particular symptom or anything,” Quiroz said.

Trower also said as Odessa continues to grow, Medical Center has had to continue to grow, as well.

“The Wellness Center is full with Texas Tech and the VA. All clinics are getting more patients every year, the Center for Women and Infants is doing well with more deliveries. When you are growing, you have to have space to treat the new patients,” Trower said.

With that growth needs to come education, though, Quiroz said. After recently visiting the newly-renovated pediatrics floor, Quiroz questioned staff whether they had even opened yet.

“There was only one patient on that floor when I visited and they renovated this whole floor,” Quiroz said. “If we service 17 counties, you’re saying that one person out of those 17 counties needs care, that’s not the case. We’re not advertising, we’re not marketing properly in those communities to generate those kinds of patients for that wing. So we need to focus on the things that are making us money.”

Trower said while it may take some time to see the difference the clinics make, since they’ve only been opened about two years, he believes they are the way to go and the hospital will savings in the long run.

Too close for comfort

Several hospital board members, like Trower, have served on the board for 20-plus years, raising questions by new candidates if they have come to the point to giving the green light to everything administration asks for.

Quiroz said when attending a hospital board meeting and something is brought up, like the purchase of new equipment or spending money on a renovation, it’s just approved.

“There’s never any discussion about how essential is that piece of equipment or how essential is that renovation going to be. How is that going to improve our bottom line, really? How is this investment going to make the hospital money?”

Trower said the items they approve during their regular meeting has already gone through several committees, it’s discussed in joint conference and then discussed again prior to the board meeting during the finance meeting.

As far as being close with administration, Trower said he’s seen people come and go, he’s been on the board when it’s been split and served when there was different administration. While CEO Bill Webster has been there for some time, Trower said the board and administration has to work together to get things done.

“Several of us have been there quite awhile, but I think we’ve got a lot of interest in the hospital and hope it does well. When I got on the hospital board, the hospital wasn’t doing well,” he said. “We were in debt and it takes years to get over something like that. A lot of people left Odessa to get their medical stuff done and we’ve turned that around.”

Trower said the crazy thing is, people outside of Odessa think more of Medical Center than local people do.

“I guess Odessa expects it and I guess they should, but I have friends in Fort Stockton and Monahans and they really, really like our hospital and that’s good because we are the lead hospital,” he said.

Odessa, TX

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