If all goes as planned, Llano County’s Memorial Hospital could be run from 200 miles one direction and emergency medical service from 95 miles the other direction.
The county Hospital Authority board will recommend to county commissioners that Llano County choose Mid Coast Health Systems to run the hospital. That system, based in El Campo, runs 15 clinics plus hospitals in El Campo and Palacios.
While discussion with a hospital system more than three hours from Llano may seem out of left field, the chief executive officer of Mid Coast, Nathan Tudor, is from Llano. Tudor told the hospital board at its meeting Tuesday that he’d heard about Llano’s attempts to find an administrator following the end of its contract with Baylor Scott & White (BSW) at the end of the year.
“We’re very familiar with rural hospitals,” Tudor said. “We feel that Llano (Memorial) is a market and a community we’re interested in. … Llano can be a really good fit for us, it’s just a good match.”
BSW has run the Llano hospital under contract with Llano County for 10 years. That contract ends Dec. 31 and BSW has said it’s not interested in renewing it. The health system loses money on the hospital, executives have said.
Critical to the hospital’s continued operation is its designation as what’s known as a critical access hospital. The application for that must be done by the current operator, BSW, and Tudor said it must be submitted by Sept. 1.
But Tim Ols, BSW’s president of Hill Country operations, said once he received a letter of intent from Mid Coast, he saw no problem getting the application in.
Ols, who also attended the meeting by teleconference, said, “I think we’ll have the resources we need (to get the application in).”
However, he cautioned, “there are 38 regulatory agencies that need to be notified.”
Hospital Authority Board President Robert Wallace has said the critical access designation is virtually the only way the hospital can stay open. That designation would mean Medicare patients’ bills are 100 percent paid – a vast financial leap from the current situation.
Though BSW had said it would like to continue operating Llano County’s emergency medical service, the hospital board will recommend the county sign an interlocal agreement with the Hamilton Hospital District.
The interlocal agreement – a matter of signatures – is one major reason for recommending Hamilton, Wallace said. Matching with a non—governmental agency would mean going out for bids and signing contracts, a process that would take months.
While its headquarters are in Hamilton, the Hamilgon EMS also has ambulances in Mills and – as of this month – San Saba counties.
Looking at the timelines involved in making the switches, Wallace called the task “daunting, but doable.”
The hospital board will not contract with Mid Coast Health Systems itself, nor will it sign the interlocal agreement with Hamilton EMS. Instead, it will make recommendations to Llano county commissioners, who must act on behelf of the county.
The next regular commissioners court is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14, although County Judge Ron Cunningham can call a special meeting before then if he thinks it necessary.