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Friday, January 28, 2005

Hospital rejects City’s ambulance offer

Staff Writer

Reeves County Hospital District board members rejected a proposed contract with the Town of Pecos City for ambulance services during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, and submitted a counter offer with a $5,000 cap in the amount of money the hospital would pay in the event of cost overruns.

Hospital board members acted upon the recommendation of interim CEO Bill Conder, and turned down the city’s three-year offer of a contract that would have started this year with a $60,000 base payment by the hospital, and a $15,000 cap on any cost overruns for the service. The city’s proposal would have increased the payment to $65,000 in the second year and $70,000 in the third year, while the hospital’s offer is for 2005 alone, with a base payment of $60,000 and a $10,000 cap.

Town of Pecos City Mayor Dot Stafford said the city would probably take up the offer on Thursday, during the council’s 5:30 p.m. meeting. Stafford was one of several city officials in attendance at Tuesday’s hospital district meeting.

The city and hospital have not had a contract for ambulance service for the past two years, though the hospital district has continued to pay the city under the old contract, which called for a $40,000 base payment with a $5,000 cap. City officials have said that agreement left Pecos with a loss of nearly $130,000 on the ambulance service during the 2003 fiscal year, and the main disagreement with the proposed deal at Tuesday’s meeting was over the cap limit.

City Manager Joseph Torres presented the offer to the hospital board, though he noted, “When I talked to Mr. Conder, he told me it would not be a workable solution.”

“The way I see it, there’s only $10,000 separating us,” Conder said. “Let’s meet in the middle and get this thing settled at least for the first year and get on about this. This is time-consuming and ridiculous.”

Torres argued that the $15,000 cap was based on the expenses an audit of the ambulance service had shown for the past several years, but Conder said, “Our goal is to support the ambulance. Our goal is not to support the city overhead.”

“The figures we gave you does not have any indirect costs,” Torres replied. “Any amount we give is always in question, no matter what amount we give.”

“What it boils down to is the $10,000 cap,” said hospital board member Leo Hung. “I believe we should meet in the middle and come back to the city council with an agreement.”

“My council felt based on what we had available as far as financial information, this was a fair deal,” Torres said.

Board president Linda Gholson noted that the board could only act on the recommendations of the hospital’s administration, after which the city’s offer was unanimously rejected by the four members in attendance at the meeting.

“If the board wants to come back with another proposal for $60,000 with a $10,000 cap, we can go with it here,” Conder said. “Let’s keep the ball rolling.”

Since the hospital’s offer is only for one-year, the two sides will have to negotiate again at the end of 2005 for a new ambulance services agreement.

“My feeling is since that (cap) has changed, let’s just go with a one-year contract,” Conder said, and hospital board members then made their offer, which will now have to be voted on by the Pecos City Council before any further action can be taken.

Hospital not going to pay for indigent illegal aliens

Reeves County Hospital will no longer pay for indigent care for illegal aliens, while board members on Tuesday delayed any action on what to do about paying for indigent care for county residents who do not have medical insurance.

The board took the action on the illegal aliens at the recommendation of hospital officials, who briefed the board on the financial problems the hospital faces picking up the costs of indigents. However, no action was taken on local indigent patients, after questions were raised about whether or not other area hospitals would handle seriously ill indigents if a cap were placed on medical reimbursement by the hospital district.

“A recent AG ruling changed the way we want to look at this,” said interim CEO Bill Conder. The ruling by the Texas Attorney General’s office said hospital districts are not required to pay the medical bills of non-U.S. residents, according to RCH finance director Frank Seals.

“We’re also looking at putting a $5,000 cap on indigent care outside of Reeves County,” Seals added. “In the past we’ve provided indigent care to illegals, but we don’t have a firm dollar amount on what we spent.”

Seals said the board needed to vote on the status of illegal aliens because of an impending application that would be charged against Reeves County Hospital.

“There’s an application from an elderly resident who moved here from Mexico to be with his son, who is also a non-resident,” Seals said. “Basically we’ll be paying taxpayer money for a very ill resident who shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

Conder said the hospital could require incoming patients to produce several forms of identification, such as utility bills or driver’s licenses, before treatment would be given for non-life threatening illnesses. The hospital’s chief physician, Dr. W.J. Bang, said that the hospital will continue to provide medical care for all in emergency situations, as opposed to elective cases.

Conder said the proposed $5,000 cap would cover the costs of about 90 percent of the indigent patients sent by Reeves County Hospital to larger facilities, such as Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. However, as with RCH’s position on illegals, the larger hospitals can reject non-life threatening cases if there is no guarantee of reimbursement.

“There is a political nature to this … but we have to consider the taxpayers’ money,” Conder said. He later added that indigents could end up having to go out of town and end up paying higher prices for medical care.

Seals said year-to-date, spending by the district for indigent care of local residents has totaled $222,000, with $85,000 of that going to out-of-town doctors and hospitals.

In other action, the hospital board voted to accept a bid from Invivo for a new cardiac monitor for the hospitals ICU and emergency room. The $85,685 bid was the second lowest of the five submitted to the hospital, but board members were told the low bid of $72,154 was for equipment that wouldn’t be easily upgradeable in the future.

The board then approved the Invivo bid, though Conder said, “We may not get it for a while. We need to get our funds better.”

The board also approved a bid for an EKG machine for respiratory therapy. The bid of $10,000 from GE Healthcare could be lowered to $9,000 by the time payment is made, board members were told.

Board members also approved payment of monthly bills and the financial statement and tax reports for December. Seals told the board the hospital’s finances were better last month than in previous months, but the district still lost $113,000. Much of that is due to the hospital’s expansion project and addition of the new kidney dialysis center, but Seals said income from the center was up by $90,000 in December.

“We have the staff now in place to have the patients come in,” Conder said, though he added that problems with officials and medical personnel in Odessa are hampering full usage of the new facility.

“The social workers are saying (to patients) they’ll lose the mileage they’d get by going over there,” he said, referring to Medicare payments for traveling to dialysis centers in Midland-Odessa. Conder then showed the board a letter he was sending out to area social workers and medical personnel.

“We’re inviting them to come over and see the facility,” he said. “Once they see it, they’ll know we have a top-notch unit, and there’s nothing shabby about us.”

City and PEDC to participate in Midland job fair

Staff Writer

The Town of Pecos City and the Pecos Economic Development Corp. will be among the groups participating in a televised regional job fair, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 3 on KWES-Ch. 9.

The Job-A-Thon will be put on by the Permian Basin Workforce Development Board from a studio at The Center for Energy and Economic Diversification of The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, located north of Midland International Airport, and will run from 3 to 10:30 p.m. In a press release, Willie Taylor, Executive Director for the Workforce Development Board, said the first-time event will give job-seekers across the area a chance to learn about job openings in the Permian Basin.

The TWDB has over 9.000 job seekers in its current database, and has listed 3,368 jobs since May of last year. “The attempt of the job telethon is to increase our ability to match employers and job seekers and quickly as possible,” Taylor said.

“The Job-A-Thon will also give us the opportunity to highlight area employers sponsoring the event, and their hiring activities,” he said. “It should ultimately help us increase our labor force availability.”

Taylor said KWES will show a phone number on-screen during the event that people can call, and will connect to 20 trained operators who will be available to answer questions on employment opportunities and job openings. Callers will get wage information, qualification requirements and the area in which the employer is located.

Others involved in the event include the Fort Stockton Economic Development Corp., Cingular, SBC, Hanover, Cornell Prison Management, Family Dollar Distribution Center, Televista, Blastmasters, Fite Fire and Safety and the Weatherford Co. Additional information will be available on the jobs by going to one of the Texas Workforce Commission network offices in the Permian Basin.

Bessie Haynes reports outbreak Fifth Disease

Children who are “just not feeling well” may have a common illness that is contagious, but can be easily taken care of.

“We just want to let the parents know about this disease,” said Bessie Haynes Elementary School nurse Mary Sanders.

Sanders said that several cases of the disease had been confirmed at the school but that students do not need to miss school because of this common illness, unless they are running a fever.

Fifth disease is a temporary illness caused by a virus known as parvovirus B 19. Fifth disease (also known as “erythema infectiosum” and “slap cheek”) is so named because in the pre-vaccination era, it was frequently “the fifth disease” that a child would develop. About 50 percent of adults have been infected with the virus but do not remember having it because it often does not cause symptoms.

The disease generally occurs in children between 5-15 years of age, but can affect any age group, including adults. It most commonly occurs during the winter and spring. The illness begins with a low-grade fever and malaise (a sense of not feeling well). This is followed by a characteristic bright red rash on the cheeks (the so called “slapped cheeks” rash).

Finally, a fine, red, lace-like rash can develop over the rest of the body. This rash may last for five days to a week and occasionally comes and goes for up to three weeks. The other symptoms are usually gone by the time the rash appears.

“They can have it before they show the symptoms,” said Sanders. “Once they’ve broken out in the rash, they are not contagious,” she said.

While the illness is not serious in children, 80 percent (four out of five) of adults with fifth disease can have joint aches and pains. This arthritis is usually temporary, lasting days to weeks, but may become a long-term problem for months. People with arthritis from fifth disease usually have stiffness in the morning, with redness and swelling of the same joints on both sides of the body (“symmetrical” arthritis).

The joints most commonly involved are the knees, fingers, and wrists.

Rarely, patients have difficulties forming a normal number of white and red blood cells as a result of fifth disease. This complication can be fatal, but is exceedingly rare.

The treatment is supportive only. Fluids, acetaminophen, and rest are important. Antibiotics are of no use in the treatment of fifth disease since it is a viral illness. In those with persistent arthritis, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be used.

The virus that causes fifth disease is spread mostly by droplets. This means that when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus can be spread. However, once the rash is present, the person is usually no longer infectious and need not be isolated.

Orphan Train makes stop at Bessie Haynes

Literature, music and audiovisual components were all a part of a special program held this morning at a local elementary school.

Bessie Haynes Elementary School students attended the program co-sponsored by the West of the Pecos Museum and the Modern Study Club.

Novelist Alison Moore and physician Phil Lancaster offered a public program combining literature, music and audiovisual components on the subject of The Orphan Trains, a largely unknown chapter in American history.

The one-hour program is designed for general audiences of all ages. The program continued with a question and answer session and dialog between presenters and the audience.

Moore told the group that between 1854 and 1929, over 250,000 orphans and unwanted children of the urban poor from New York City were “placed out” on trains heading west by the Children’s Aid Society of New York. This nearly eighty-year experiment in child relocation and rehabilitation is filled with both horror stories and happy endings.

The trains stopped in pre-selected towns where people interested in taking a child would assemble. The children were lined up on the platform or a meeting hall stage, encouraged to perform or sing to endear them to prospective takers and were inspected, often prodded and poked to determine whether or not they would be good workers on farms or local businesses. The last orphan train went to Sulphur Springs, Texas in 1929. Until the release of a 1993 documentary on PBS’ The American Experience, these children’s stories were largely untold.

Alison Moore, novelist and former Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Arizona has developed this program based on research at the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. She is the author of two books, a collection of short stories entitled, “Small Spaces between Emergencies” (Mercury House, 1992) and a novel, “Synonym for Love” (Mercury House 1995).

Small Spaces between Emergencies was selected as one of the Notable Books of 1993 by The American Library Association. She received a National Endowment for the Arts literary fellowship, an Arizona Commission on the Arts fellowship for her story on the Orphan Trains in 1998 and an Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry in 2002. She has directed a non-profit organization called Arts Reach that teaches creative writing to Native American children in reservation schools in southern Arizona and is currently An Arkansas Arts Council Artist on Tour and an Arkansas Humanities Scholar.

Phil Lancaster was born in Texarkana, Arkansas and from an early age developed a passion for art and music that was later to flourish in France. When he moved to Angers at age 22 he studied art at L’Ecole Cde Beaux Arts, became a member of a bluegrass band that traveled and played throughout France and produced an album entitled “Bluegrass Oldies Ltd./Traveling Show.”

He also worked as a stage theatre technician for La Coursive Theatre Nationale in La Rochelle, France.

After returning to the U.S. he met three Arkansas musicians and the acoustic quartet, “Still on the Hill” was formed in Fayetteville.

They released their first CD in 1997 and their second in 200. The band toured and performed at both national and international folk festivals and acoustic music venues as a member of the Arkansas Arts on Tour roster.

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