|McALLEN, October 25 - Valley Interfaith has come out in favor of a hospital district for Hidalgo County.
The group says healthcare services will be improved dramatically because of the hospital district’s ability to draw down tens of millions of additional federal healthcare dollars, pointing out that for every dollar invested locally, the federal government will match that dollar with $1.50.
They also point out that the hospital district will provide a stable source of revenue for the UTRGV Medical School.
“There are so many reasons to support the creation of the hospital district, support Proposition 1. It is going to mean better access to healthcare and more clinics,” said Valley Interfaith leader Eddie Anaya from Las Milpas.
Anaya told the Guardian that with the creation of a hospital district, an estimated $12 million will be matched with federal funds to pay for part of the cost of providing medical care to indigent individuals and families. He said an estimated $5 million will pay for the UTRGV Medical School and expand healthcare services and access for all, both insured and uninsured.
“For every dollar invested, the federal government will match that dollar with $1.50. By leveraging our local monies, we can access millions of dollars and we won’t lose them to other counties,” Anaya said.
Denise DeLeon, a Valley Interfaith leader from Edinburg, pointed out that at the moment Hidalgo County Commissioners Court is responsible for the provision of healthcare for the indigent. She said that will change with the creation of the hospital district.
“The moment the district hospital is up and running they will be in charge. They will be able to go above and beyond what the County is doing right now. Instead of $8 million for healthcare, we will go to $33 million, because we can draw down more federal money. That is something people need to see is going to be here for us,” DeLeon said.
DeLeon said Valley Interfaith members plan to do block walking in support of Proposition 1 and get the message out during Sunday mass at numerous churches across Hidalgo County. They plan to get parishioners to fill out sign in sheets that will provide the names of ten additional people Valley Interfaith leaders can contact in order to enlist support for Proposition 1. Their pitch will be that the hospital district will:
• Provide better healthcare for Hidalgo County families
• Bring more jobs to Hidalgo County
• Support the UTRGV Medical School
• Train Rio Grande Valley children to become tomorrow’s doctors.
“We wish we had gotten involved in this issue sooner. But, we are here now and we will see that we can do to help ensure a “yes” vote on Proposition 1,” DeLeon said.
Valley Interfaith leaders learned about the benefits of a hospital district through an in-depth meeting with Dr. Gerardo Lopez-Mena, executive physician of clinic operations at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Crystal Arrizon, a Valley Interfaith Organizing Fellow from Mission, said Lopez-Mena will speak at a Valley Interfaith civic academy about the hospital district at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Las Milpas at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday. Following the civic academy, Lopez-Mena will participate in a Valley Interfaith block walk in support of the hospital district. “We plan to go door-to-door in our communities. We want to educate the public, whether they can vote or not,” Arrizon said.
Frank Perez, a leader of Valley Interfaith from McAllen, said he liked the fact that Dr. Lopez-Mena mentioned that, with the creation of the medical school there will be more money for healthcare research for Hispanics. “You can provide medication in the right dosage for Hispanics. You get a different reaction based on certain medications for different races. Hispanics are under-represented in medical studies,” Perez said.
Supporters of a hospital district point out that:
• Hidalgo County has the largest percentage of residents without health insurance in the nation – 38 percent.
• Hidalgo County has one of the fastest growing Hispanic population centers in the nation.
• Hidalgo County has a physician shortage, limited resources and limited access to care and new treatments
• Hidalgo County is the largest county in Texas without a hospital district
• Hidalgo County has a disproportionate number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cervical cancer.
De Leon said she liked the fact that there will be four residency clinics set up through the medical school. “Those who do not have healthcare, those who do not qualify for Medicaid can attend and will be seen and that is important,” she said.
“I believe the hospital district is going to provide the Valley with ample opportunities that we very well deserve. It is going to bring in specialists for residencies at the medical school, it is going to favor and support the medical school, which is something we need. The merger between UTB and UTPA is a huge accomplishment for us and without the hospital district we are afraid it is not going to flourish the way it should. Not only with providing the specialists we need as doctors but overall the healthcare we need for our community. That is why I support Proposition 1,” DeLeon added.
Supporters of a hospital district also point out that Hidalgo County is experiencing higher indigent care costs. The county spent $9 million this year alone on indigent care and hospitals in the county spend an estimated $400 million per year on indigent health care.
“Hidalgo County and all taxpayers foot the bill for expensive trips to the ER. Prevention and increased access to medical services would decrease ER visits and save taxpayers money,” Dr. Lopez-Mena said.
Perez, DeLeon and Arrizon said Valley Interfaith will likely hold a news conference to announce the group’s support for a hospital district in Hidalgo County. They said the news conference will likely be held next Tuesday or Wednesday. They said a venue has yet to be selected.