JUDGE: County creates task force to address medical issues
This week the Milam County Commissioners Court created a task force to investigate areas of concern in Milam County, regarding medical care. Specifically, the task force will look into the issues of after hours medical care in the county; adding an additional ambulance in the county; and the best use of the former Rockdale hospital and medical clinic.
The task force will have authority to thoroughly investigate all related issues and make recommendations to the court by Dec. 30, 2021.
After hours medical care in the county has been an issue since both hospitals and emergency rooms closed in December 2018. Since then Milam County residents have been forced to travel out of county to Temple, Bryan, Taylor and other places for after hours and/or emergency room type care.
This is problematic because of the travel time and inadequate transportation. However, rural after-hours care is costly to operate due to lower patient flow, which is why none of the big providers have taken this on. Our problem is exasperated by the fact that most Milam County resident found other providers after the emergency rooms closed and it will be difficult to get them back.
Ambulances in the county are another bubbling issue. We have AMR for ground service and AMR is a good provider. However, there is sometimes a shortage, when all three ambulances are out on calls and a fourth call comes in. When that happens we have to get ambulances from other areas, such as Bell or Williamson County, which takes more time.
This service is not a very profitable endeavor as many of those who are transported have no coverage. In fact, some estimate that only one-third of those transported have coverage. Therefore, we subsidize this service in the amount of $300,000 per year, which is split equally between the City of Rockdale, the City of Cameron and Milam County.
We have good, free air ambulance service in the county that is provided by PHI. Two years ago the Commissioners Court voted to pay an annual subsidy in the amount of $37,500, whereby PHI would provide free ambulance service to any Milam County resident. This agreement has relieved a lot of stress for those that may need this expensive transport.
The last issue is the Rockdale Hospital District. The District is a taxing authority formed several years ago to help defray the expense of having a hospital in Rockdale. The District owns the hospital complex and is now saddled with the cost of maintaining the facility, even though there is no hospital.
The District has done a great job of maintenance as the facility is in pristine condition. We have used the facility almost weekly since January vaccinating over 5,000 people. The issue of course, is what to do with the complex. It seems a terrible waste to tear down a beautiful building that is in such good shape!
These are the three issues for the task force to investigate and make recommendations. We are hopeful that a fresh look at these issues can shed helpful light for positive solutions. The court welcomes your interest and input on these issues.