Health care assessment is just another investment by the Permian Strategic Partnership

The coalition of 17 energy companies known as the Permian Strategic Partnership has invested $41 million in health initiatives.

That’s 44% of the $93 million in donations to West Texas and Southeast New Mexico for healthcare, education, labor, housing, transportation safety, and community support.

These health initiatives include $12.8 million for surgery and residency at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center and $10.7 million for a nursing and pre-med program at the University of Texas Permian Basin .

Other programs include $2.3 million for counseling and guidance, $2.5 million for the TTUHSC program at Midland College and $5.9 million for a TTUHSC family medicine residency program and $800,000 for mobile clinics. The PSP annual report includes sections on investing in healthcare education to improve the 1,000 Permian nursing vacancies and the growth of “our own” surgeons and specialists to fill “regional shortages” of cardiologists and gastroenterologists and to increase the number of residents working in regional hospitals.

“National statistics show that up to 60% of educated residents stay within 50 miles of the region they resided in to open their medical practice,” the annual report says. “By supporting this (residency) program, PSP seeks to strengthen the physician pipeline for our region’s hospitals.”

As PSP Executive Director Tracee Bentley said during an interview with Reporter-Telegram, an assessment pointing to gaping holes in Midland-Odessa showed that “nearly 50% of people leave the region for healthcare, particularly for specific reasons.”

“We don’t have good access to specialty care here,” Bentley said.

What about taking care of those who cannot walk?

One reason the PSP, Scharbauer Foundation and members of both Midland and Odessa hospital districts have communicated about the assessment and possibly next steps (tomorrow and 20 years from now) is to improve access to quality healthcare across the Permian Basin.

A medical complex combining the resources of the two cities can help achieve the goal of making Midland-Odessa a health destination and maybe even “world class”, but the assessment and resulting actions are important because that, what is there should be better, Bentley said.

Bentley stated the obvious – there is no “Level 1” trauma care facility in Midland-Odessa.

“We don’t even have Level 2 anymore,” Bentley said. “If you need level 1 care, you’ll probably get flown to Lubbock, and sometimes people don’t have that much time. What level of trauma care is appropriate for our region is something we are looking at. And then how do we get what it’s going to cost us? What do we need to reach this trauma level?

She said the lack of specialized surgeons and doctors is one reason there is no Level 1 center in Midland-Odessa.

“We funded health initiatives long before we began this assessment,” Bentley said of the $41 million that the PSP has spent on health care. “Even if this transformational hub of healthcare does not materialize in the end, the things we will accomplish along the way are monumental in themselves. … We will definitely increase access to behavioral medicine and definitely provide more access to specialties. And we’re definitely going to improve on our telemedicine because that’s another area that has emerged that needs a lot of work.”

And that will help health care for those working in remote workplaces throughout the Permian Basin. Bentley said emergency response is not always efficient due to remoteness and outdated systems. And improving health care means focusing beyond the health care provided in Midland and Odessa hospitals.

What can and cannot

Bentley said initial reports on the valuation and what the PSP and other companies are considering are premature. She said they caused people to make assumptions about facilities and other things that were moved when decisions weren’t made because officials are still processing information.

This information includes:

  • What investments could the state make;
  • Could voters in Midland and Odessa support the concept of a medical complex for the 21st century?St century and beyond;
  • What kind of support would come from the University of Texas system and the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center;
  • What would be part of the medical complex.

The latter includes the obvious. If it were determined that a more central location was needed, what would that mean for residents in east Midland County and west Ector County? Interviewees for this article indicated that facilities in the heart of metropolitan areas were needed for emergency care. Officials also suggested there would be other scenarios where geography would require care to stay in respective city cores.

“Maybe the answer will come back and it’s just too far fetched for the Permian to host something like that,” Bentley said. “But at least we know. And at least we did our homework. And so we can look everyone in the eye and say, “We did our homework and realized that it just can’t be done here.” But what if it is? … No one is saying any of this is inevitable except the behavioral health center.”

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