Permian Strategic Partnership officials address reports from regional health facilities

Editor’s note: The following is the first of two stories about a conversation with Tracee Bentley with the Permian Strategic Partnership about the possibility of the creation of a regional healthcare complex.

Yes, the Permian Strategic Partnership is working on the eventual creation of a transformative healthcare center for Midland-Odessa.

However, media reports so far lacked other details, fueling speculation and misconceptions officials wanted to address. The Permian Strategic Partnership’s executive director, Tracee Bentley, spoke to the Reporter-Telegram this week about the years the coalition of 17 energy companies has dedicated to improving health care in the region, an assessment that pointed to gaping holes. here in Midland-Odessa, the potential for a regional approach and the very long-term project that officials are talking about.

Bentley said medical officials in Midland and Odessa have been consulted and are working with the Permian Strategic Partnership, the Scharbauer Foundation, the University of Texas System and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences System. .

She also added that the No. 1 concern — regardless of what happens with this hub — is getting a planned behavioral health center across the finish line. Officials said the state has committed $40 million of the $90 million needed for a mental health facility unlike anything in Midland-Odessa or the region. This facility is also the focus of Midland Health officials, the Ector County Hospital District and foundation officials throughout the region.

“The behavioral health center is the first room in a potential health care center,” Bentley told The Reporter-Telegram. “And we think it makes sense that wherever the behavioral health center lands is a good place to potentially put more things like a pediatric center or a cancer center or a new nursing lab, you understand my drift. … The behavioral health center could be the cornerstone of what’s in our future, potentially.

An assessment tells the story

The Permian Strategic Partnership has already spent more than $41 million on healthcare initiatives across the region. The last in the list of PSP healthcare projects offered to the Reporter-Telegram was $700,000 on an appraisal by Chartis, which, according to the company’s website, is “the leading healthcare consulting firm of the country with an unparalleled breadth of capabilities and depth of experience. ”

The Chartis assessment is the result of approximately two years’ work. Bentley said “pretty significant gaps” were reported, including access to behavioral health care “first and foremost”. Other gaps included access to specialist care, rural health care facilities struggling with connectivity, and access to primary care.

The assessment also showed that almost 50% of people leave the region for health care, especially for specialty reasons.

“We don’t think it has to be that way,” Bentley said. “We believe that over time we can recruit the specialists and we can recruit the talents.”

The assessment pointed out that the Midland-Odessa metropolitan area has “one of the weakest health care economies of any metropolitan area in the entire United States,” according to Bentley.

“So if Midland Odessa’s healthcare economy was at the same level as the national average, our total healthcare economy would be around $4.5 billion,” Bentley said. “We’re about $1.5 billion short of being on par with the national average.”

“We also know that when you invest in health care like other places have, it helps your overall economy, you live in a much healthier place, and it creates economic diversity, which even my businesses would say. it’s a wonderful and healthy thing. ”

Finally, the evaluation pointed out that a regional approach to health care could benefit the region as there were duplicate efforts that made health care less efficient.

“And really, as we started looking at the valuation, we thought, why don’t we think bigger?” said Bentley. “All eyes are on the Permian Basin right now. And they will continue to be for the foreseeable future. We believe it is our duty to ensure that we continue to do what we do best. , which is to produce clean, reliable energy and that we need to have a healthy community to be able to do that.

“These are great and noble goals”

If Midland-Odessa officials did more than fill the gaps in regional health care and tried to make the Permian Basin a health care destination with a “world-class health care hub,” it wouldn’t happen. overnight. If the communities decide to create options for women and children, cancer patients, trauma patients, a teaching hospital or other things that bring people from all over the region to Midland-Odessa, the deadline is closer 15 to 20 years (if at all).

“But I think if we don’t do that, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by not looking into whether those things are even possible or not,” Bentley said. “Maybe the answer comes back and it’s just too long for the Permian to welcome something like that. But at least we know. And at least we’ve done our homework. is unavoidable, with the exception of the behavioral health center.

Bentley said there were no plans to empty buildings (contradicting media reports earlier this week) at a healthcare facility in Midland-Odessa. She said it is entirely premature to determine specifics, including location, project price or plans for the project. Officials from the Midland and Odessa hospital districts would agree, as the tax money they currently receive could only be diverted to a health organization in the Permian Basin with voter approval.

Higher-level conversations are what’s happening right now, Bentley said. Those conversations would then likely involve state lawmakers about what investments the legislature would be willing to make — or, as local residents say, how much money the Permian Basin sends Austin might be sent back to take into account. responsible for health care in the region.

In the last session, organizations like the PSP and the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance helped push for road commitments of more than $600 million to be possible. The regional also received this $40 million for a mental health facility.

Bentley said there was participation from those at Midland Health, MCH in Odessa and more rural hospitals in southeast New Mexico and west Texas. If the plan continues, further community input will be required.

“As we start going through more information and the assessment, and really focusing on what’s doable and what’s not, we planned to absolutely have discussions and engage the community. “Bentley said.

Upcoming Tuesday: The conversation discusses the assessment’s look at emergency care in the region, PSP’s investment in healthcare, and other potential barriers that need to be overcome.

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