A couple of months ago when CHI St. Joseph Health System announced it was going to cease its contract with Bellville Hospital, there were many questions and concerns floating around.
All of those apprehensions converged on Bellville High School’s auditorium, where a town hall forum hosted representatives from the hospital district and foundation boards as well as the new management system to answer the community’s inquiries.
Tony Causey, president of Bellville Hospital District, Juanita Romans, new CEO of Bellville Hospital, Larry Hancock, representative of ERH II, LLC, the new management service, and Dr. Don Bosse, M.D., longtime practicing doctor in Bellville, responded to distresses and incited confidence in the community that this rural hospital wasn’t going to be joining the list of the 21 others that have closed their doors in the last four years.
The only thing the Bellville Hospital Foundation Board asked of the community was their full support.
“I think growth is in the future, we need the community, we need the doctors, we need the loving staff to create the atmosphere for us in the future,” said Romans.
“It’s really an opportunity,” she continued. “It’s a chore of love to be able to take all of my years of healthcare experience and help Bellville Hospital become what it should be and that is a strong, vibrant community hospital here in Bellville.”
The hospital has solicited the services of ERH II, LLC, whose mission is to lease and manage acute care hospitals with a focus on helping distressed and underperforming hospitals in turnaround situations but will remain hands-off in the day-to-day operations in Bellville.
One of the elephants in the room was then brought up asking how that company will be compensated and if they get that pay whether there’s success or not.
Causey addressed that major concern head-on, noting there will be a monthly fee for their services over the five-year contract as well as performance-based bonuses but “there is no financial risk for them other than incentives,” he said.
The other angle of that question was regarding the hospital’s plan to be profitable or instead turn into a “money hole” of sorts.
Causey answered that with his belief that if this were not a “viable and sustainable operation, we wouldn’t be asking for your help.”
However, the profit part of the hospital may be a bit of a process as it will have to rely on existing lines of credit and leftover revenue to get them through that transition phase until they’re standing on their own completely.
And again, that’s where the community’s support will be needed to get them over that hump and back in the stream of full-time revenue.
“We need your support. We need you to use our services,” Romans said. “We need your support in terms of time and commitment to the foundation.”
Not long after, a representative of emergency medical services in the county included that it was an exciting possibility for Bellville to turn back into an independent hospital because of the level of care you receive when you’re there.
“When you’re a patient, you’re a patient, not a number,” he said.
The microphone found its way to County Judge Tim Lapham shortly thereafter and he said the things the board could not quite get away with so boldly.
Lapham joked that the Bellville Hospital needed those in the community to get sick and break bones and to go get treated in Bellville. When a situation arises where you need medical attention, go to the Bellville Hospital but it doesn’t quite stop there.
“If you have a good experience, tell your friends, tell your neighbors,” Lapham said, noting the spoken-word exposure will carry more weight than anything.
Bellville Hospital is still under the CHI St. Joseph umbrella until May 6 but as soon as the clock strikes midnight, ERH will take over and the Bellville Hospital District will be on its own with doctors and nurses ready at any moment.
One staple of medicine in Bellville has been Dr. Don Bosse, who spent 28 years in his own private practice and the last six in the corporate medicine field.
He added that the hospital is the “anchor for the community and county and without one, the community falls away.”
Bosse has been in charge of contacting doctors of specific specialties to utilize their services in Bellville on top of the services they already offer, he has been in touch with oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, orthopedic surgery, urology, pulmonology and neurology doctors in the area as well.
On top of that, he included a growing relationship with Dr. Kannappan Krishaswamy, the owner and operator of Sealy Urgent Care, when asked if offices would be available in Sealy and other surrounding towns. That mutually beneficial partnership will increase the coverage area of all Austin County citizens if they need any sort of medical attention.
One other important question was brought up regarding medical records and who owns the rights to those files.
Romans confirmed that CHI currently has those records but they will remain in the system allowing patients to experience no overlap or shortage of history.
Once all the question-cannons were unloaded there did seem to be a rising sense of confidence emitting from that crowd that this certainly can be done and moderator Anne Ford, chairperson of the Bellville Hospital Foundation Board, personified that statement.
“I think that if any community under the sun can do this, we can,” Ford said. “It’s the most generous community I’ve ever seen in my life.”
She continued with a quote about community that stated; “Community is much more than belonging to something, it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.”
Ford closed by stating there are accounts set up at each bank in town, First National, Industry State and Austin County State Banks, where donations can be made to the “Save the hospital campaign fund.”
In addition, there is a website that although is in a transition phase, will be able to accept donations there. Contributions can also be mailed to the Bellville Hospital Foundation, Post Office Box 55, Bellville, TX 77418.