Leaders from Sherman, Denison, Grayson County and representatives from Texoma Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital - WNJ came together Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the Grayson County Health Clinic. The clinic is expected to divert non-emergency cases from the two hospitals’ emergency rooms, while providing stabilized healthcare to the area’s uninsured and underinsured.

Leaders from Sherman, Denison, Grayson County and representatives from Texoma Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital - WNJ came together Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the Grayson County Health Clinic. The clinic is expected to divert non-emergency cases from the two hospitals’ emergency rooms, while providing stabilized healthcare to the area’s uninsured and underinsured.


Officials marked the occasion with a ribbon cutting at the clinic at 111 Gallagher Road in Sherman.


Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum welcomed people to the ribbon cutting and said though they were all there to celebrate the opening of a medical clinic, they were also there to celebrate something more. They were there to celebrate the collaboration between what many might have thought of, in the past, as waring entities. Those entities included the cities of Sherman and Denison and WNJ and TMC. Bynum said he had first had experience with the feuds between the cities and the hospitals at an early age.


His father, a radiologist, worked for a while at WNJ when Bynum was a boy. Then, one day, his dad came home and said he had gotten a new job. The only downside to the job, Bynum recalled, was that the family had to move. Since the new job was at TMC, the family, Bynum remembered his father saying, could live anywhere but Sherman. The family settled in Pottsboro.


Even though there was that history of competition, Bynum said, representatives from the two hospitals came together with the county to form a partnership that should allow everyone to accomplish their goals of caring for county residents in the best, most cost-effective manner possible.


Bynum said he had not been county judge for long when he realized there had to be a better way to deliver on the county’s obligation to set aside 8 percent of the county’s gross revenue from its tax levy for indigent health. At that point, Bynum said, the county was writing checks to the local hospitals for indigent residents who ended up in the ER because they had no other access to health care. The care they got was expensive and, often, not the best use of the resources available at the ER. He said he was talking with Texoma Health Foundation President Michelle Lemming about a regional health partnership when she started talking about a clinic she had been involved with in Louisiana.


About the same time, he explained, the state had said the county would have to be a part of a group of counties that would be joined together to make the best use of state funds for health care. Eventually, Grayson County ended up in a Regional Healthcare Partnership 18 with Collin, Denton and Rockwall. Back then, Grayson County Health Department Director John Teel told commissioners the RHP regions and the need for the county to pick one stemmed from the state’s application for a waiver on the rules under which it must spend Medicare and Medicaid money. The state applied for and got a five-year waiver from those rules in an attempt to find a better way to offer services to Texans who don’t have insurance and those who qualify for Medicare. The goals of the waiver, Teel said, are to increase access to health care, improve the quality of health care and reduce Medicaid costs to the federal government.


Under the new plan, Teel told commissioners back then, the county could continue to spend that money as it always had or it could join with local hospitals Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital — WNJ and Texoma Medical Center to come up with new ways to serve the unserved or undeserved who meet the requirements for Medicaid or Medicare. Teel said one such example might be the hospitals putting together a program to reroute indigent people, out of the high-cost Emergency Rooms, to a lower-cost health clinic. The county could either choose to put some of that 8 percent toward that program or not. But if the county did decide to be involved then the money it would put forward would be matched by the federal government at 150 percent.


Bynum said Wednesday that after a great deal of work by everyone involved, the county is about to make its first payment on that deal with the state. But that gets a little bit a head of things. First the county, the two hospitals and Texoma Health Foundation and Wilson N. Jones Community Foundation had to come up with money to refurbish the old Medical Plaza Hospital and get it open by the state’s deadline of Oct. 31.


Bynum said the hospitals stepped up early and said the need to get the clinic open was great. And the possible benefit to the hospitals by rerouting non-emergency cases from the ER was enough to make them sign on, even if the state didn’t match the county’s $2 million. The two foundations came through with money for the renovations. Bynum said the clinic opened on Aug. 31 to its first clients.


While Bynum gave away a great deal of the credit for the project to TMC CEO Ronald T. Seal, THPH-WNJ CEO Vance Reynolds, Lemming, and WNJ Community Foundation Board Chairman Pete Kloppers, most of them said it took Bynum’s push to get things rolling in the right direction.


"Our (county) judge is about the best judge in any county in Texas. It was his vision that brought us together," Seal said Wednesday.


He added that at this point the two hospitals see the clinic as a way to better serve the communities that both hospitals feel they are called to serve. He said the competition these days is really all about keeping patients here in Grayson County rather than losing them to hospitals to the south.


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