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Future of Liberty County healthcare

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Growth and economic development in Liberty County, and how those two relate to the future of the healthcare in Liberty County came to the forefront during the “Liberty County Aging, Adversity & Accomplishment: A Conference for Health, Healing & Living,” event that was held this week at Calvary Baptist Church in Dayton. Members of a panel discussion on the subject were Liberty County Judge Jay Knight, Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur, and Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Rhonda Campbell.

Residents were on hand to hear the discussion of plans to see a brand-new facility that LDRMC hopes will come to life in the near future.

Arthur spoke about the time that both he and Jay Knight came on board at the county.

“It seemed Liberty was against Dayton, Dayton was against Liberty, and the north end of the county was against the south end, and vice versa.

That prompted Knight to bring the local communities together to start looking at what the future holds and the best situations for economic development, transportation, and of course, healthcare needs in the local area—trying to define the best locations that would have the most impact on the most significant number of county residents.

“It requires the efforts of incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county. The way we look at things now is where is it going to benefit everybody in the county best,” said Knight.

This becomes even more important in the Judge’s eyes, as estimates could see Liberty County growing from a population of 68,000 in the 2010 Census to estimates well above 100,000 when the 2020 numbers are released. He believes this makes proper medical facilities even more imperative for the area, especially the underserved residents in the more rural east side of the county.

That is where the discussion turned to recent dealings concerning the Liberty County Hospital District No. 1, which includes the cities of Dayton, Liberty, and Hardin, and the future of the facilities at LDRMC. The current hospital and clinic facilities are about 70 years old, which is not ideal for the changing landscape of medicine, and the critical need to keep that structure would likely be too costly.

Now there is a plan for a brand new state-of-the-art facility in the district, which officials believe would prove a real game-changer for residents. After several years of work, it was decided that the best location for the new hospital would be for a new facility that would remain in Liberty.

Some of the reasons for that included the needs of residents on the east side of the county and the fact that the growth coming from the Houston area would likely see Dayton served by other healthcare options from the west. Those reasons, along with a donation of land by the Pickett Family for the new LDRMC campus, in the end, sealed that decision in stone. It was announced during the conversation that a piece of property off of HWY 321 in Dayton had been purchased for a clinic as well.

The new proposed facility would be located at HWY 146 and FM 1011 (Governors Road). The new campus would be a critical access hospital facility, with approved licensing for 25 beds currently and potential for growth in the future. This type of hospital is typically located in more rural areas and is designed for quicker turnarounds with patients.

This is a need that Campbell feels is extremely necessary for our area, “rural healthcare is in such danger as it is.”

The new facility is set to cost approximately $35-40 million, and if all goes as planned, the facility could be completed in the next couple of years. There are plans for the hospital, a medical office for doctors, and a park with walking trails on the campus, that officials believe will have an attractive aesthetic.

Architectural plans have been developed with long-term expansion efforts in mind as the area and need increase.

Funding for the project is expected to come from some possible federal funding and the possibility of a bond election. A petition has been circulating in the area requesting that a bond election be placed on the ballot by residents.

According to Liberty County Elections Administrator Klint Bush, the hospital district has contacted his office about a possible pair of elections, one a bond and one is about a tax adjustment. The deadline to call an election for the November ballot is August 16.

“They have contacted my office regarding multiple elections,” said Bush.

If the hospital district does call for an election, that will likely impact the funding toward the proposed new hospital.

Campbell, Knight, and Arthur were all in agreement on how important this project is for residents in the area and the need to protect local healthcare now and in the future.

“It is so important that you support your local hospital,” Campbell encouraged everyone.