Fort Worth: County’s Hospital District Gets $800M Kiss From Voters
Feature Photo (above): Patient Care Pavilion at the John Peter Smith Hospital complex. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Fort Worth (Tarrant County) — The voters of Tarrant County gave their public hospital district a huge vote of confidence last week when they passed the largest county government-related bond issue, $800 million, in county history.
It was the first voter-backed bond election for the JPS Health Network since 1985. This time, 82 percent of voters checked the “For” box on the ballot.
The Citizen Blue Ribbon Committee (CBRC) studied the Tarrant County Hospital District’s needs for a year before submitting their final recommendations in February and the Commissioners Court deliberated over the county’s health service levels several more months before finally calling at an August 14 meeting for an election.
The evening of the general elections, JPS Health Network issued a formal thank you note:
“We are honored and grateful to serve a community that appreciates the healthcare JPS has provided for more than 110 years. JPS will be able to not only improve patient care but will leverage the bond money to bring in new revenue through creative public-private partnerships.”
Population growth was a primary concern of the JPS. Patient treatment increased 77 percent from 2007-2017. The county hospital district had maxed out its ability to meet patient with the available facilities, some of which have been in use since 1939. In 2017, JPS personnel handled 1.27 million patient encounters.
In a separate statement, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said, “We continue to build our health infrastructure in an efficient and conservative manner. Our pledge to the voters is that we will do this with no tax rate increase.”
The bonds will be issued through multiple series for several years. Accordingly, the construction projects will be rolled out in phases.
Capital improvement projects will include a new mental and behavioral health hospital, a new hospital tower on the main campus, a new cancer center, four new regional health centers, a new ambulatory surgical center.
Mental & Behavioral Health: A new facility with 298 beds was recommended by the CBRC. Due to lack of capacity, in 2015, JPS paid private hospitals $3.1 million, but those hospitals aren’t equipped to handle highly complex psychiatric conditions.
New Main Tower: The new main tower will need 676 beds. The committee found that current patient rooms do not meet contemporary industry and best practice standards; existing MEP systems are significantly past their useful life; the current number of beds are inadequate and population growth will exacerbate the need.
The CBRC said, “The current number of beds is 409, which is capacity needed to meet 34 percent of the low-income population needs for inpatient care for medical conditions. To maintain this market share, the 20 years population estimate bed need is 594-664 depending on assumptions used for reducing preventable admissions and reducing length of stay. While 3 members voted for a total of 616 beds, the majority of the Committee voted to exceed this range and support building a hospital of approximately 676 beds.”
New Cancer Care Center: The existing cancer care center is outmoded, too small and has no room for expansion.
Four New Community Health Centers are needed to augment the existing 13 centers and keep up with population growth. In its final report, the CBRC said:
“The Committee recommends a plan to incrementally increase the capacity of JPS community health centers over the next 20 years to nearly double the capacity of low-income residents JPS will care for (from 26 percent to 50 percent). It recommends beginning this expansion with four new community health centers to be built in the next five to 10 years (by 2022). Primary care workforce availability and financial resources will influence the rate at which these health centers can be built.
“These community health centers should be built in priority areas identified by Cumming – South Arlington, Southwest, Northwest/North Central, and Northwest/Central — with refinement of geographic location by JPS as appropriate. The plan should be revisited at least every five years given potential changes in the health care environment unknown at this time.”
An Ambulatory Surgery Center for out-patient day surgery services can lower cost.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.