Meetings on joint Odessa/Midland hospital system underway

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jul 25, 2022

A group including area business and community leaders has been meeting for approximately eight months on the possibility of establishing a regional medical and research center off Highway 191 and FM 1788 in Midland County that envisions to relocate the Medical Center Hospital and Midland Memorial Hospital from both cities. and the repurposing of their current buildings.

Documents show Don Evans, chairman of the Permian Strategic Partnership, met Grant Billingsley, president and CEO of the Scharbauer Foundation, chief of staff of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Cole Johnson, executive vice chancellor of the UT System Dr. John Zerwas, Texas Tech Health Science Center President Dr. Lori Rice Spearman, and CEOs of Midland Memorial and MCH, among others.

Others also participated in a meeting held June 27 at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center. A printed copy of a PowerPoint presentation presented at the meeting shows that the complex would also house a main street with cafes, shops, a theater district with an outdoor amphitheater and also a hotel conference centre. A park would also be part of the complex.

Elected officials from Ector County, Odessa City and Medical Center Hospital were reluctant to speak publicly on Monday, citing the good work being done by PSP and pending PSP grants.

Odessa Chamber of Commerce CEO Renee Earls said she was unaware of the full details of the plan, but said the topic was raised at a weekend Chamber retreat. She said the chamber should pursue a fact-finding mission to further explore the plan.

“We are too big a community not to have our own hospital and we are lucky to have two,” she said. “And we’ve seen how well they work together as they have throughout COVID.”

She said the medical center’s property value in downtown and other parts of Ector County is critical to the local economy, “and we don’t need those buildings to go dark.” .

“We are trying to improve the city center,” she added, depending on the outcome of such a project, “it could be a huge downfall for Odessa and would affect sales tax revenue and the job, because MCH is THE second largest employer in Odessa”.

MCH elected officials and city officials privately noted that the public should have been involved in the planning from the start.

The PowerPoint copy shows that “The Road to 2026” plan is a framework for partnerships that would include an expansion of the University of Texas Permian Basin campus that would include a health sciences complex with nursing, pre- medical, as well as future programs such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy, pharmacy and public health. It also details an expansion of engineering, business, music, applied research, and manpower programs.

People with more in-depth knowledge of the plan have privately pointed out that the new facility would have about half of the hospital beds Midland and Odessa currently have. A source said the meetings started from “What can we do to help the medical community?” to “How can we make this a new regional hospital?”

Odessa Regional Medical Center is a private hospital, but MCH and Midland Memorial are public hospitals funded by both sales tax and property tax revenues. Sources said on Monday there are plans to ask the Legislature for severance to fund the planned health care system.

State Rep. Brooks Landgraf said bills can’t be introduced until November for the 2023 legislative session. He said he hadn’t been involved in the planning, but would say “everything who has an impact on health care for our community must have the contribution of the community”.