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HCHD president reassures lease was renewed

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Houston County Hospital District LogoBy Jan White
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CROCKETT – It was standing room only on Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the Crockett Medical Center cafeteria, as hospital workers and staff joined with concerned community members to find out if there was any word as to whether Dr. Kelly Tjelmeland would continue operations at the hospital.

The Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) board had speculated over the past few months whether or not Tjelmeland would try to renegotiate the terms of his lease before the automatic five-year renewal, which was to occur on Jan. 15.

As the board prepared to adjourn, Crowson read from a prepared speech. “I am totally aware that there has been a lot of speculation in the community and the county on the status of the lease that we now have with the medical center. As we stated in the meeting last July, this lease was renewed by the tenant for an additional five years. And the district will continue to honor its obligations under the agreement that it has with Crockett Medical Center. The board is focused on and remains committed to maintain high quality health care in the community.”

During the open comment portion of the meeting, Superintendent John Emerich from Crockett ISD and Chris Cravens, a teacher in charge of the clinical program at Latexo High School, spoke to the board about the importance of the hospital’s role in the community and with the local education system. Former HCHD president Bob Grier, a frequent open forum speaker at the meetings, also voiced his concern, urging the current board members to ‘negotiate in good faith” to keep the hospital here.

After hearing the usual financial, hospital and ambulance reports, spokesperson Rhonda Brown reported on the finance committee meeting. Brown said that they had repair bills for work that had been done by Hargrove Neel on the HVAC unit and upcoming repairs for the hospital’s operating room in the surgical room. The invoice from Hargrove Neel totaled a little over $26k and was for work completed back in August, although it was not received by the HCHD accountant, Dick Murchison, until around Dec. 23.

The request was for the hospital district to pay half of the amount, which would be around $13.5k. Although the district isn’t obligated to pay a portion of the repairs, because the work was done locally by a well-respected vendor and in the interest of good faith, as noted by President Barbara Crowson, the board voted to pay half of the bill.

The repair bid that was submitted by Johnson Controls in Longview was for the replacement of the fan assembly and two gas valves for the operating room. The request is for the district to pay $8,780. Although it was brought to question as to whether it was the district’s responsibility to pay for the repairs, Crowson said “it is urgent to get it done in order for us to have surgeries going forward. We want our hospital, and we want it to remain here and will help in any way we can with available funds.”

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