Home Radiation UMH, Clear Springs to reassess

UMH, Clear Springs to reassess


Melissa Federspill|LEADER-NEWS
Uvalde County Hospital Authority Board Chairman Bill Kessler Jr. (standing, left) addresses fellow board members and area residents who have gathered for the meeting special meeting of the council, which was held last Friday at the Uvalde Memorial Hospital.

With just over 45 days remaining on the decade-old lease agreement between Uvalde Memorial Hospital and Clear Springs Cancer Care, both parties are to resume negotiations for a new contract, the board said Friday. of the Uvalde County Hospital Authority at a special meeting.

The unanimous vote came following an approximately 1.5-hour closed session that was called after six members of the public addressed council in a 12-minute public forum.

Disappointment was a common theme for most speakers, including UMH CEO Tom Nordwick in his opening remarks and Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell in an open forum. .

“We’re better than these people, we don’t need to have this meeting here tonight,” Mitchell said, while reflecting that the Clear Springs Center for Cancer Care recently helped save her life and pleading council to continue negotiations.

With the impasse in negotiations between the UMH and Clears Springs raising community concern about the potential radiation therapy vacuum in the area, Nordwick praised the roughly 20 people present for demanding further explanation of the UMH’s position. hospital.

“I know there are a lot of rumors in the community, so I commend you for coming tonight to seek clarification,” he said while explaining that the board members of the ‘UCHA are committed to the community.

“I believe the members of this hospital board are all respected members of this community,” Nordwick said, “and while I understand everyone’s concern, I must share that I am disappointed that individuals speak to strangers in our community. these individuals.

Nordwick also provided a historical overview and timeline of negotiations with Clear Springs.

Board Chairman Bill Kessler, when calling the meeting, also clarified the hospital’s intention for cancer care in a bid to dispel the rumors.

“First and foremost, we want to assure you that this organization is committed to ensuring that these services are available for future generations,” Kessler said.

Supporting this view and sharing disappointment that members of the Uvalde community think otherwise, Jon Anfinsen, National Border Patrol Council, President of Local 2366, and husband of Gabriela Anfinsen, Executive Assistant to Nordwick as well as Council Uvalde County Hospital Authority Board of Trustees in a public forum said it was absurd to think the hospital would cut cancer care.

“It seems the articles in the newspaper and the most vocal people posting on Facebook think the hospital doesn’t want any more cancer treatment at Uvalde,” Anfinsen said. “I don’t believe that’s the case, and I think it’s crazy that that’s what people think.”

Anfinsen said he was confused about the community’s loyalty to Clear Springs and quoted Nordwick from the Feb. 3 edition of the Leader-News when he said the hospital would continue to provide radiation therapy regardless. either the supplier.

“If the treatment is going to happen somehow, why are people so motivated and invested in Clear Springs. Dr Jones is not a benevolent figure who comes here to donate his time and resources, he is a businessman,” he said, explaining his confidence that the practice generates significant profits and keeping a rental price per square foot from 10 years ago would be the envy of local businesses.

“But because he invoked Mr Briscoe’s name in a letter to people in January, he thinks he will have a cheap lease forever. And that’s just not how it works,” he continued.

Dr. David Jones, in 2007, was approached by then UMH CEO Jim Buckner, Dr. John Shudde, Roger Berry, and Sheri Rutledge of UMH, to bring his radiation oncology services to Uvalde County .

Jones’ initial inclination, according to his January 20 letter to Nordwick, was not to do so, because his staff had concluded that with the “mix of patients biased toward indigent care and low population density… we would be unable even to cover our own overhead,” he wrote, adding that the late Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe helped design a business model that would support radiation oncology in Uvalde County.

Anfinsen concluded by supporting the UCHA Board of Directors.

“The Board of Directors has done a tremendous job for decades, and I’m confident they are doing the right thing now. I just wish the community would support small businesses as much as this cancer clinic owned by an out-of-town person,” he said.

The question of how services will continue and how the hospital will ensure cancer care for all regardless of ability to pay as provided by the Clear Springs Center for Cancer Care was raised by Carol Kothmann, the first person to address the Board during public comments.

“While the hospital currently allows $10,0000 per month, or the amount of the center’s rent, for charitable care, Clear Springs is not turning anyone away; which means that the charitable care provided often exceeds the amount of $10,000,” she said.

“What will happen to these patients if the hospital takes over the center?” Kothmann asked.

Kothmann serves on the board of directors of the Uvalde Healthcare Foundation, the non-profit organization that facilitates Kate Marmion Rides to Radiation, a service that provides door-to-door transportation to qualified radiation patients from Dimmit, Edwards, Kinney, Maverick, Medina, Counties of Real, Uvalde, Val Verde and Zavala.

Their efforts are supported by the UMH, as the hospital employs the drivers and handles payroll administration. UMH also provided the organization with an initial cash injection of $300,000, Nordwick said.

Kothmann also pointed out that the hospital has a service area of ​​five counties, not nine, which was the original limit of the Saving Lives Close to Home fundraising campaign that funded the construction of the Clear Springs. Center for CancerCare.

Nordwick said the UMH operates and maintains the facilities that were built through community donations with funds from hospital operations.

“Saving Lives Close to Home has promised to serve nine counties. These five [Uvalde, Kinney, Edwards, Real and Zavala] and Val Verde, Medina, Maverick and Dimmit. A transition to a hospital-owned center will appear to exclude four counties,” Kothmann said. “What will become of these people?”

Roger Berry, also a member of the board of directors of the Uvalde Healthcare Foundation who participated in the fundraising campaign, asked for additional explanations from the hospital’s board of directors.

“What’s the motivation to take it back?” Berry asked. “It works as is. It was given to you for free,” Berry continued.

“I ask that we don’t let greed destroy a successful operation. It is ethically and morally responsible for us to keep the center running,” Berry said.

Other attendees who spoke included Kay Welch and local healthcare provider Beth Andres.

Welch shared his concerns about the disruption of care if the hospital needed to find a new radiation oncologist, while Andres explained how the cancer center has changed the lives of many people, providing care which were previously not available in the region.

After the forum, the board discussed grand opening celebrations for the new Uvalde Memorial Hospital.

Trustees Ben Elliott and Hector Gonzales were not present at the meeting, which was held in the Holmgreen Conference Room at Uvalde Memorial Hospital. Other UCHA board members include Kelly Faglie, Dr. Shawn Ragbir, Monica Gutierrez, Dr. GV Gaitonde and Raul Zamora.