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HCHD Questions Validity of Recent Survey

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Social Media Rears Its Head

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – A recent survey conducted by the Texas A&M Rural and Community Health Institute (ARCHI) team has generated quite a buzz in Houston County because of findings pertaining to the hospital and the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) Board of Directors.

Not surprisingly, once the report was made available to the public, social media – specifically Facebook – caught wind of it and from there, any hopes of civil discourse evaporated like rain on a Texas highway in August.

The report can be found at the following link:

http://architexas.org/rural-health/images/optimizing-rural-health-a-community-healthcare-blueprint.pdf

The bickering over the report, entitled “Optimizing Rural Health,” has become so distracting, Robert Spurck, the attorney for the HCHD weighed in on the matter and penned a letter which was presented at the Tuesday, March 22 meeting of the HCHD.

Before the letter was read, HCHD President Dr. Bob Grier provided a brief overview of the matter.

“It was brought to my attention a discussion was going on – on Facebook – concerning the hospital. In a conversation I had with Robert Spurck, I mentioned it to him and he said his wife had told him about it. Based upon the comments found on Facebook, Robert prepared a statement,” the HCHD president said.

In the aforementioned statement, Spurck explained while the report “… is a worthwhile and valuable report related to rural healthcare, as it relates to the Houston County Hospital District, much of the information in the report that appears to describe the District’s relationship with Timberlands Healthcare is incorrect. We are in the process of reaching out to the Institute to discuss and clarify the incorrect statements. The description of the transaction with Timberlands Healthcare is not only false in several respects, but also makes assumptions about the District and legal counsel that are simply not correct.”

Timberlands Healthcare was the hospital provider who provided the HCHD board and hospital staff a total of six days’ notice before abruptly ceasing hospital operations at the end of June 2017.

The attorney added the ARCHI report characterized the relationship between Timberlands and the HCHD as a “management arrangement” at the time the hospital closed implying the HCHD had “… operational and oversight responsibility for the hospital.”

“This is simply not the case,” Spurck stated. “Although the District’s arrangement with Timberlands Healthcare started out as a management arrangement, on and after Oct. 1, 2016, the arrangement between the HCHD and Timberlands Healthcare was that of landlord and tenant. Meaning, that on or after Oct. 1, 2016, the District and its board had no oversight, management or operational responsibility for the hospital.”

Spurck also questioned how the ARCHI determined there was a clause in the original agreement to “… withdraw its services or otherwise close the hospital with no advance notice to the district or otherwise maintain the operational and patient data of the hospital. It was quite the opposite. The agreement expressly required Timberlands Healthcare to provide 180 days’ notice to terminate the lease and also required that it return certain operational and patient data to the District upon termination.”

The letter went on to state there was no contract provision which could have prevented Timberlands did and the only remedy was through the legal system.

“Although the District considered legal action on multiple occasions, through consultation with legal counsel, it decided to use its limited financial resources to re-establish healthcare in the Houston County community, which it has been able to do,” the attorney’s correspondence stated.

After reading the letter, Grier said he agreed with Spurck’s position.

Board member Rhonda Brown expressed a difference of opinion and remarked, “I cringe to think what it cost to have that letter typed up by Robert Spurck.”

“I cringe at the fallacious data, false information and incorrect information that has been put on the internet by people in this community,” Grier replied.

He was quickly informed the spread of misinformation on the internet would never be able to be curtailed. Grier, however, persisted and said the information on Facebook was not correct.

“I would like to stop the false information. That is what the statement clarifies,” he said.

“Are you saying the A&M report is false?” Brown asked.

“I’m saying the information on Facebook is not correct. It was not checked through the agreements we had with Timberlands. The statements that were outlined in this statement (Spurck’s letter) are clearly based upon fact. They are not based on emotion. They are not based on fiction. They are not based on what someone thinks or what someone thinks should have happened. They are based upon fact,” Grier said.

Several board and audience members all began to speak at the same time before Grier was asked what the point of this was.

“The point is this community is being hounded at times by information on Facebook that is not correct. There is information out there that is not correct,” Grier said.

“You responded to a post and said that we had been sued,” board member Dina Pipes said. “We have not been sued by anyone.”

From there, the meeting devolved into people talking over one another and after a few moments, the meeting was adjourned.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.