A team from the CBS 60 Minutes program is slated to visit Franklin County Texas this week. 60 Minutes is doing a story on the effects of rural hospital closings in NE Texas.
The ‘Old Hospital’ in Mount Vernon Texas closed in 2014. At that time, the closure was a cost saving measure.
Since the closure, the building was found to contain asbestos, and have other significant problems. Water pipes have frozen and burst, and a SWAT team has done some training inside the structure.
Most recently the Franklin County Commissioners Court planned to offer the building up to the highest bidder. The internet auction for the structure is postponed to allow 60 Minutes access.
Closing the hospital caused an unforeseen burden for Franklin county. When a person calls for an ambulance, they are now transported to Titus or Hopkins counties. And in a perfect world this would be a workable solution. But the ambulance service only gets paid if they actually pickup a patient and transport them an Emergency Room. When a trip is made, and the potential patient waves the service, or they don’t end-up in an Emergency facility, the trip charge is passed to the county. The number of non-emergency ambulance calls have risen since 2014.
According to Hopkins County EMS director Brent Smith, the closure of hospital in Mount Vernon has resulted in longer trip times for patients. Hopkins County EMS contracts with both Delta and Franklin Counties.
The team from 60 Minutes is planning to interview Dr. Jean Latortue. After the ‘Old Hospital’ closed in 2014, Latortue invested in the structure in an attempt to keep it going. Unfortunately Dr. Latortue was unable to keep it afloat. He now practices from from a clinic near the abandoned hospital building.
The Mount Vernon Optic-Herald has been in contact with CBS and will be covering the interviews as well. KSST spoke with Optic-Herald Publisher Susan Reeves on Tuesday. Reeves says the building is a total loss and must be razed before the land can be used. On a personal note, when Reeves fell ill last year, she ultimately found her way to Hopkins County and CHRISTUS.
What was the cause?
As to the actual cause of the 2014 closure, everyone KSST contacted points to the Affordable Care Act. And though it was signed into law in 2010, the full force of the ACA’s provisions came into effect in 2014. The ACA effectively diminished the revenue some rural hospitals could generate, and forced them to close.