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Economic Development


Weekly Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, June 4, 2004

Van Horn hospital scheduled for shut down

The only hospital on a 240-mile stretch of Interstate 10 will be closing its doors soon, and patients who had been going there may instead be taken to Reeves County Hospital.

The Culberson County Memorial Hospital will be closed sometime in the near future, the hospital’s board of directors decided during a meeting on Tuesday night in Van Horn. Its closure will mean the nearest hospital for Van Horn residents will be Reeves County Hospital in Pecos, 85 miles away.

Hospital administrator Joe Wright said “overwhelming debt” led to the decision to close the facility, which was first opened in October of 1970. The hospital’s rural health clinic and EMS services will remain in operation, he added.

“I don’t have the exact date for the closing. We still have some paperwork to do,” Wright said.

“This hospital has been financially strapped for the last several years,” he said. Increases in health costs, along with a declining area population and a rise in the number of uninsured patients using the facility contributed to the problem.

“If it is not an emergency people can decide where to do. If it’s an emergency we’ll probably take them to the nearest hospital,” Wright said, adding that severe trauma patients will likely be taken to Thomason General Hospital in El Paso.

“We started sending some to Odessa Medical Center because of their helicopter, but it’s still 160 miles to Odessa and 120 to El Paso,” Wright said.

Van Horn, with a population of about 2,800, currently has no doctors living in town, according to Wright. “Five doctors come in from a variety of places to keep the hospital covered 24/7,” he said. Aside from the Pecos-based doctors at Reeves County Hospital on Interstate 20, the next closes hospital and doctors now will be at Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, 95 miles southeast of Van Horn.

Wright said the closing will probably result in the loss of between 17 and 20 jobs, including his own. “If you’re only going to operate a rural health clinic, you don’t need an administrator’s salary hanging over your head,” he said.

As for the indigent and uninsured patients who would now have to go outside of the county for treatment of serious medical problems, Wright said, “We probably need to work out an agreement with somebody,” on financial compensation. However, he added, “If it’s non-emergency it falls back to the patient to decide where to go, and the receiving hospital is responsible for working out the paperwork to get the payment.”

Annual onion harvest in full swing

The annual onion harvest is in full swing at the Pecos Cantaloupe Co. packing shed on the Balmorhea Highway, and is expected to continue through mid-July.

Clay Taylor with Pecos Cantaloupe Co. said this year’s harvest is pretty normal, with workers harvesting the same fields as normal south and east of town.

“Here in the she we have about 60, and out in the field we’ve got 150,” he said of the workers employed in this year’s harvest.

The onion harvest will continue for about a week or two after the start of the 2004 cantaloupe harvest. “So far so good,” Taylor said about the prospects for Pecos’ best-know crop, the first of which should come in from the fields about the time of the West of the Pecos Rodeo during the opening week of July.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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