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Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Hospital's health good but prognosis clouded

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer

PECOS, June,16, 1999--"You've come a long way, baby," could be the theme of the 1998 audit report given to Reeves County Hospital District directors in their regular board meeting Tuesday.

Brandon Durbin of Durbin & Company, L.L.P., certified public accountants in Lubbock, reported that the hospital has come a long way from five years ago.

"It would be interesting to chart all the years; the last couple of years especially," he said. "Hopefully it will continue despite the federal government."

Government controls are hurting all hospitals right now, he said. "We are seeing a lot of pain in rural hospitals."

Hospital administrators have banded together to petition Congress for changes in Medicare and Medicaid funding that will relieve some of the burden created by the Balanced Budget Act.

Reeves County Hospital's financial position improved last year, with assets increasing from $6.9 million to $9.5 million, Durbin said. Cash flow doubled, due in part to a tobacco litigation settlement, he said.

Total operating revenue rose from $8 million to $9.8 million, including an increase in property tax revenue of $250,000. Operating income rose from $1.2 million to $2.4 million.

The bad news is that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are often less than the patient's care cost the hospital, Durbin said.

"Medicaid disproportionate share funds will be reduced significantly over the next several years," he said.

Disproportionate share funds are provided by the state of Texas to generate additional federal matching funds for inpatient indigent health care.

The focus of the funds is to benefit the health care needs of the medically indigent, including recipients of Medicaid benefits, those eligible for Medicaid, the uninsured poor and others for whom the cost of medical and hospital care has exceeded their ability to pay.

During 1998 and 1997, RCH received $1.1 million and $768,000 respectively, in disproportionate share funds.

Durbin said he expects the payments to go down 30 percent across the state.

He recommended being very diligent to identify charity cases as opposed to bad debts to attract more dispro funding.

"Twenty-five percent of dispro has to be written off as charity," he said.

Finance officer Richard Mathis said that RCH has between 30 and 35 percent identified as charity patients.

Statistics for May show that 57 patients were admitted, and 10 babies were born. Five patients used the intensive care unit.

Over half the patients were covered by Medicare. Eleven were on Medicaid and five were covered by Blue Cross.

RCH is out of compliance with Medicare because physician records are not up to date, Durbin said.

"Every hospital has problems. Yours is not as bad as I have seen," he said.

Computer problems with the coming of Year 2000 are minimal at RCH, Durbin said.

"The biggest thing is accountants looking at contingency planning for backup of water, backup of fuel," he said.

"The only thing that will impact you is that every insurance company will delay payment and tell you it is Y2K," he said.

In other business, the board noted that tax collections at 91.76 percent are slightly below last year. Administrator Charles Butts said that he expects to collect only $8,000 to $10,000 of the outstanding balance of $100,000.

"We have gotten about all the tax money we are going to get this year," he said.

Board President Greg Luna appointed the following committees:

Indigent Care: Marcella Lovett, chairman; Jesus Prieto, Luna, Alan Zeman, Ernest Matta and administrator, ex-officio.

Joint Conference: Lovett, chairman; chief of staff, Joseph Darpolor, MD, Iris Rives, administrator and board president, ex officio.

Minnie Kyle Trust Fund Scholarship Committee: Prieto, chairman; Holly Key, administrator, director of nursing, controller.

Executive and finance: Luna, chairman; Lovett, chief of staff, controller and administrator, ex-officio.

Long-range/strategic planning: Lovett, chairman; Key, chief of staff, administrator, auxiliary president, director of environmental services, director of nursing, controller, and board president, ex-officio.

The board approved a memo to hospital staff reinforcing the policies and procedures for handling grievances.

Employees who have job performance issues should be appropriately counseled, and employees shall resolve differences with their supervisors rather than taking them to board members.

In reviewing the financial statement, Butts said that Medicare reimbursements are based on the doctor's diagnosis and not on the total patient days.

"So many people on Medicare think Medicare pays the bill. They don't realize the loss the hospital takes if they go over the allotted days and amount for that illness," he said.

Losses this year are double what was budgeted, he said.

"We need $500,000 this month, and we only budgeted $200,000.

"The government has us squeezed down so hard, you are not paid for the cost," he said. "That makes a Medicare patient an undesirable patient. That's not what you need to be as an elderly patient."

Mathis said that larger hospitals can break even on Medicare patients because they have a large number of patients who have health insurance that pays the total bill.

"There's no big company here, a third-party payer that could subsidize us a little bit, so we have to absorb all the cost," said Luna.

"It ultimately falls back on our taxpayers to have to pick up the tab of what the government has mandated," said Lovett.

Dr. Pankaj Patel was removed from the medical staff at his request.

Director of Nurses L.G. Crawford said that Covenant Health Care Systems has offered to teach a class for nurses on monitoring obstetric patients while they are in labor.

"We will get a majority of our nurses into the class, and the balance in the future," he said. "It is the first class here in quite some time."

Golf pro bids stir controversy

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 16, 1999--Ken Winkles Jr. who represented Reeves County on the golf course advisory committee, is upset about statements made about the pro shop contract in the Monday meeting of Reeves County Commissioners.

"Lets get a few facts straight," he said.

"First, I do believe I know what I am talking about since I was appointed by Judge Galindo to represent the county in this matter. With all due respect to a few of my friends on the commissioners court, sit up and pay attention!" he said in an e-mail letter written to the Enterprise today.

"First of all, Mr. Owens, in what year did you receive your law degree? You have made several statements over the past few weeks that have no legal basis. I believe what you have been giving is your own opinion and interpretations of the law concerning several items. Ever consider getting an actual interpretation from legal counsel? First of all, at no time over the past three weeks has anything been said regarding the legality of any items in the current version of the contract, (in fact, the fourth has been completed)" said Winkles.

"Other than you finding out that your statement about the length of the contract was not exactly factual, what other findings have you reported to the Advisory Committee? None! I can say for a fact. In fact, at no time to my knowledge, was there ever anything mentioned about the Pro Shop Owner or Greenskeeper having to live within the city limits. I guess the commissioners court has calculated what it will cost to not only find a new greenskeeper, but pay a fair salary to that person that will be working with antiquated equipment," said Winkles. "Or do you have plans to hire `an ole buddy?'"

Winkles said he personally didn't believe there was a "hidden agenda" here like some people have suggested. If there is, he said, the Advisory Committee was only a ploy.

"I truly hope not. Several other items are not factually correct. First of all, did none of the commissioners read the second and third draft of the contract? At no time does the Pro Shop remit trail fees for private carts. The correction was made on the draft of June 7th," he said.

Remittance of the yearly registration fees, yes, but not the $4 trail fee paid to the Pro Shop, according to Winkles.

Next, if you read the contract, you will find that the remittance is monthly, not semi-monthly, he said.

"Mr. Rayos, have you ever read the contract? If you had, you would find that NO the county does not get any part of the concessions," said Winkles. "I don't believe anyone on the commissioners court has paid any attention to the improvements made to the golf course by Mr. Cassell," said Winkles.

Winkle said that everyone knows the condition the course was in after the last greenskeeper left here and the condition it is in now.

"Herman (Tarin), with all due respect, read your own budget report for the course! The court budgeted a $20,500 LOSS for the course for 1999. I have reviewed the budgets for the last 10 years and at no time has the course EVER came close to breaking even," he said.

However, Winkles said, there is a solution. Raise the green fees. Compared to Monahans and Ft. Stockton, Pecos has the lower green fees. $7 green fee for a weekend is a joke, he said.

"There is no way the course can ever break even with that low of a green fee. With somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 rounds played per year - you go figure it out. Breaking even is not the responsibility of the Pro Shop owner or the greenskeeper. It is your responsibility," he said.

Winkles said the contract with Cassell expired Dec. 31, 1998.

"Yes, folks, that was over six months ago. I hope that the county does not do other business in this fashion. Or come to think of it, have they? Think about it! Also, by the time this hits the newspaper, one of two things will have happened. One, the commissioners have all sat up and paid attention or last the Advisory Committee has all but thrown in the towel and Pecos can kiss one of the last recreational activities goodbye," he said.

Bids are being accepted to operate the pro shop/golf pro.

Royce Cassell, the current pro shop operator, has submitted his resignation and has reportedly said his last day will be Friday. He was not available for comment this morning.

Along with running the pro shop concession stand, Cassell is also employed by the county as greenskeeper.

The decision to bid out the golf course operations and pro shop falls under Chapter 263 of the Local Government Code.

Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens said that since the contract concerns the occupation and use of county property it should go through a bidding process.

Owens's letter to Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo says in part, "The very nature of the contract to provide golf course operations and services where the operator provides carts for rent and operates a pro-shop to provide golfing items and concessions for the public requires the operation of a private business from public property.

"The operation of a private business from public property is prohibited by law unless the business leases the space from the public entity.

Cassell is paid by the county for the duties of greenskeeper at an annual salary of $18,000; he nets about $62,000 from carts and another $20,000 from the pro shop, said Galindo.

Neither Tarin nor Rayos were available for comment this morning. Owens supplied copies of the local government code to back up his letter.

A copy of the advertisement for bids was listed in Tuesday's Pecos Enterprise and the deadline to submit bids has been set for 2 p.m., June 30.

Grandmother gets break on prison sentence


By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 16, 1999--Tearful women - and some men - appearing before U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson on Monday and Tuesday got a break on their sentences. Others didn't fare so well.

Profirio Gomez-Medrano and Elias Barrientes drew 41-month terms. Several were sentenced to 24-30 months. The most unusual sentence, repeated nine times, was 12 months and one day.

The one day addition gives the defendant a chance to earn time off for good behavior, possibly as much as 15 percent, whereas a 12-month sentence would require the full 12-month stay in prison.

A mother and a grandmother were among those getting the "good-time" break.

Delma Aparacio-Aragon of Odessa, who celebrated her 38th birthday in Ward County Jail Monday, had pleaded guilty to possession of 59.9 pounds of marijuana on Jan. 22.

After hearing her plans for the future, Judge Furgeson said, "I think you have it figured out, and you just want to stay the course. I wish you good luck. I will give you the minimum, and you will be out in five months."

Aparacio will receive credit for the time spent in jail since her arrest.

Celia Chavira-Rodriguez, a 54-year-old grandmother from Del Rio, said she was embarrassed to be in court and believed she had done nothing wrong, despite her earlier plea of guilty to marijuana possession.

Chavira was arrested on July 11, 1998 as she and a male companion traveled north on U.S. Highway 385 south of Marathon. Border Patrol agents found 126.70 pounds of marijuana in two spare tires in the car's trunk.

Chavira said she had picked up the tires from a hispanic male on the side of the road near the Panther Junction Ranger Station at the entrance to the Big Bend Park. She said the man had requested she take the tires to the first service station in Marathon, where his wife and child would be waiting in a pickup truck.

Agents were unable to locate the woman and child.

Because Chavira continued to protest her innocence up to the time of sentencing, government prosecutors did not ask for leniency. But at Judge Furgeson's urging, Chavira finally admitted she knew the marijuana was in the car.

She said her male companion, whom she had invited to go on the trip to Big Bend with her, told her about the contraband, but she chose not to say anything.

"I just went along," she said. "I spent my whole life doing the best I can for my fellow man, and then I go off and do a stupid thing like that, which I regret."

"There's nothing in the past in your 53 years that would indicate that you had ever been involved in anything like this," said Judge Furgeson.

Chavira said she had no idea what happened to her companion after her arrest. "He was just an acquaintance."

Judge Furgeson gave her credit for acceptance of responsibility and a minor role in the violation, which made her eligible for a 12-month sentence. By adding the day, she may have to serve only 10 months, he said.

Completing his docket for the week, Judge Furgeson sentenced 33 defendants and accepted several guilty pleas.

Drug interdiction keeps Border Patrol on toes


MARFA, June 16, 1999--Marijuana and other illegal drug seizures kept the U.S. Border Patrol's Marfa Sector busy during the first two weeks of June.

So far this month, agents of the Marfa sector stations have seized 2,353 pounds of marijuana valued at $1.8 million, and 3.82 pounds of cocaine valued at $122,240, said Chief Patrol Agent Simon Garza Jr.

An abandoned quantity of methamphetamine, 4.52 pounds, valued at $144,640, was recovered from a commercial passenger bus.

Agents at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint seized 1,384 pounds of marijuana concealed in hidden compartments in a recreational vehicle and took two persons into custody on Friday, said Garza.

On Saturday, agents stationed in Marfa intercepted a load of 222.65 pounds of marijuana being smuggled in a 1984 Ford pickup truck. The truck had been stopped for immigration inspection as it was coming from an area of the border notorious for illegal alien and narcotics smuggling. One subject, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested and turned over to DEA task force agents.

The Alpine station crew seized a load of 281.422 pounds of marijuana Tuesday near Marathon. A K-9 inspection of a vehicle resulted in a positive alert to hidden contraband in the vehicle.

Officers found 59 bundles of marijuana hidden underneath a blanket on the rear seat. Two subjects, a man and a woman, were arrested and turned over to DEA agents.

Bomber flight comment deadline today


By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 16, 1999--Today is the last day to comment on proposed low-level bomber flights over the Trans Pecos area, said Sue Toone, whose house near Saragosa is often rattled by the training flights.

"One came over our house after 10 p.m. last night and rattled everything I had and this house shook," Toone said today. "It was horrible.

Toone said that three flights passed over their property Tuesday, despite assurances by Air Force personnel that they would be stopped.

"They told us in Pecos not to worry. `You are not on the route. It is a mistake and we will certainly get it stopped,'" she said. "They had no intention to. They are just a bunch of charming snakes."

Public relations staff at the public hearing in Pecos included Air Force officers and private citizens. They showed maps of the proposed routes and answered questions for concerned residents who would be affected by the flights.

Toone said they assured her that she would not need to make her planned speech. "We'll take care of it; that's what we are here for," they said.

But they are still flying overhead and "spilling their jet fuel all over," she said.

Comments on the training flight routes will be accepted if they are postmarked today. They may be mailed to:

Maj. Brent Adams, RBTI-EIS Project Manager, HQACC/CEVPP, 129 Andrews St., Ste 102, Langley AFB, VA 23665-2769.

Gunshot victim dead on arrival


By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 16, 1999--A 59-year old male was found dead in a residence Tuesday after officers responded to a report made to the Pecos Police Department.

Raymond Eliaser Juarez was pronounced dead about 2 p.m., by Justice of the Peace Amonario Ramon.

Several officers from the Pecos Police Department and the Reeves County Sheriff's Department responded to a call to 203 S. Plum about 12:43 p.m., in reference to a man with a gunshot wound.

When officers arrived they found Juarez lying face down in the kitchen of the home. An ambulance was summoned and Juarez was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

The incident is still under investigation and an autopsy has been ordered. Cause of death has not been determined, according to Pecos Police Investigator Kelly Davis.

"We haven't ruled on this one and we won't until we get the autopsy results back," said Davis.

Pigeons trigger theater sign fire

Pigeons are suspected of triggering a fire in the State Theater sign last night, said Nan Zeman, co-owner.

Zeman said the sign is filled with dead pigeons and droppings.

"Apparently a pigeon got against a short and started a slow fire," she said.

Pecos Volunteer Department extinguished the fire. Slight smoke damage is apparent on the outside of the sign.

Mineral hearings set for Friday by review board


PECOS, June 16, 1999--Reeves County Appraisal District's review board will convene at 9 a.m. Friday for mineral hearings.

Mineral evaluations this year are clouded by a suit filed by several area taxing entities, including Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD.

Supplemental corrections for mineral and real estate properties for tax year 1998 will be made at that time, as well.

Board meeting are held in the district office at 403 S. Cypress Street and are open to the public.

LOTTO

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Tuesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 5-10-13-18-38. Number matching five of five: 1. Prize per winner: $83,674. Winning ticket sold in: Houston. Matching four of five: 260. Prize: $483. Matching three of five: 8,772. Prize: $24. Next Cash 5 drawing: Thursday night.

WEATHER

PECOS, June 16, 1999--High Tuesday 89, low last night 63. Tonight, partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Low in the lower 60s. East to southeast wind 5-10 mph. Thursday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms. High in the mid 80s. Southeast wind 10-15 mph. chance of rain 20 percent.
 



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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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