Upcoming Tax Vote Is Critical
Posted on Friday, September 27th, 2013
Love County Health Center: EMS Station 1, Training Center, Hospital, Clinic, Therapy Building and Food Pantry. Twenty-two county hospitals have closed since 1985, but Love County Health Center, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012, is open and growing.
A county-wide penny sales tax supporting hospital operations is up for renewal on October 8.
Hospital Board of Control president Jack Testerman says the support tax is indispensable to keeping the Love County Health Center (the hospital, clinic, and EMS) open and growing.
“We believe that voters understand the tax is essential to the operation of the health center, and that they regard the health center as a key component of the growth and prosperity of Love County,” he said.
Voters first adopted the hospital support tax in 1990. They have renewed it three times since, in 1993, 1999, and 2004.
Over the past 10 years, the tax has raised an average of about $675,000 per year for, according to ballot language, “equipping, maintaining, and operating” the health center.
In lean years, according to hospital administrator Richard Barker, the tax revenue makes up for loss of income from cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid that affect all hospitals, with rural facilities and their smaller patient base being hardest hit.
Other years, it has provided a margin with which to make facility improvements and additions.
He named a number of improvements since 2004:
An enlarged clinic, new therapy building, new training center, more doctors, and the addition of a school nurse traveling among Love County schools head the list.
The clinic now has a visiting heart specialist, and the emergency room has a neurologist on call through “telestroke” video technology being installed now.
Diagnostic equipment added includes a CT scanner, bone density scanner, bladder scanner, and enhanced ultrasound.
The grounds are newly landscaped, the Pink Ladies’ gift shop expanded, and a new chapel greets visitors in the vicinity of the lobby.
Underway this fall is an enlargement of the emergency department. Two new treatment rooms and a renovated waiting room will be added to the west side.
A new hospital-based adult day center will open this fall to serve adults with diagnosed dementia or developmental disabilities. The hospital has purchased and renovated the building at 200 Wanda Street that formerly housed the mental health service agency.
Barker credits the combination of sales tax, grants, trust funds and local economizing for the additions to operations.
A valued relationship with Sisters of Mercy Health System since the mid-1990s also has been a key component of recent success, he said.
Under a management agreement, Mercy provides accounting, billing, and engineering support, as well as access to bulk purchasing of medical supplies and equipment.
The Love County Health Center pays Mercy for the lease of employees plus a nominal monthly consulting fee.
The Hospital Board of Control, appointed by the Board of Love County Commissioners, controls funds and expenditures of the Love County Health Center.
Besides Testerman, other members are Robert Brannan, Andrea Locke, Lenna Radde, and Steve Smith, Jr.
The Board meets at 6 p.m. in the clinic conference room every fourth Thursday. The meetings are open to the public.
Since 1985, according to the Oklahoma Office of Rural Health, 22 county hospitals have closed. All 17 of the remaining hospitals in counties the size of Love County receive public support, 14 of them from sales taxes ranging from .5¢ to 2¢.
“A Yes vote on October 8 helps assure the citizens a continuation of an excellent medical facility and medical care,” Testerman said.
The measure requires a simple majority. If approved, the tax will continue for 10 more years. All county polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In-person absentee ballots may be cast at the County Election Board in the Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on October 4 or October 7.