Hospital backers consider county’s options
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
A hospital solution for Orange County is in the works, say members of a group of civic leaders that have been working behind the scenes for more than two years.
The most likely solution appears to be the creation of a county-wide hospital district, said Shawn Oubre, Orange city manager.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean a new tax, he hastened to add.
“Not all hospital districts need to levy a tax,” he said. “Jasper has one (hospital district) and there’s no tax.”
“Obviously there’s a need for emergency healthcare for individuals living in Orange County,” said Jessica Hill, executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation.
“There’s a multitude of options that we can pursue. We’re looking to narrow down those options.”
Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas announced on Dec. 13 that it was closing its Orange emergency room as of Jan. 12, citing financial reasons.
The “Orange campus,” a full-service hospital built in 1957, had been cutting back local services since at least 2013, when it stopped delivering babies. It eliminated in-patient care in 2015.
Shawn Oubre, Orange city manager, said he and Jay Trahan, Orange’s assistant city manager, have been checking out options on behalf of what he called a hospital stakeholder group.
The group includes elected government officials and city managers like Oubre, as well as representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and the Stark Foundation.
And it’s not just emergency services they seek.
The first choice was to attract a new private hospital to the area. The group hired consultants whose completed 2015 study showed Orange could support a 60,000-square foot hospital with 25 in-patient beds, two operating rooms, one radiology suite, one CT scan and one fluoroscope suite, a mobile MRI and an emergency room.
“We had three options,” Oubre said. “Do nothing, go out and try to secure private investment, or try to set up a hospital district as a public partnership.”
Oubre said he and Trahan spent a year trying to lure private investors.
“There is a concern in the county about losing our hospital,” David Rutledge, Bridge City mayor, said. “Economically, when a company wants to locate here, that’s something they’re looking at. We need to support our local industry.”
He was talking with an eye on nearby Chemical Row.
“From time to time, somebody may have an emergency,” Rutledge said. “By the time they (an ambulance crew) get out there and get them to Jefferson County, it might
make a difference. There might be a life in the balance.”