Other Voices

Citizen involvement decides the future of John Peter Smith Health Network

Dr. Jusan Galarza gives a checkup to 3-year-old Brigette Trejo as her mother Arsenia Trejo and Yeray Comacho wait in the exam room at JPS Health Network's Viola Pitts/Como Health Center on Bryant Irvin Road. Among the recommendations for the future of JPS are greater space at health clinics and perhaps more clinics.
Dr. Jusan Galarza gives a checkup to 3-year-old Brigette Trejo as her mother Arsenia Trejo and Yeray Comacho wait in the exam room at JPS Health Network's Viola Pitts/Como Health Center on Bryant Irvin Road. Among the recommendations for the future of JPS are greater space at health clinics and perhaps more clinics. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Meeting the growing healthcare needs in Tarrant County requires much more than just money.

While our representatives discuss the federal government’s policies on healthcare and government’s role, we in Tarrant County are having our own conversation.

Our local focus is on the Tarrant County Hospital District, also known as John Peter Smith Health Network or JPS.

Last year, the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court authorized the formation of a Citizen’s Blue Ribbon Committee to analyze and discuss the county’s public healthcare needs over the next decade.

While past discussions have often revolved around funding, the committee is instead focused on assessing the current and future healthcare needs in Tarrant County.

The group is studying the role of JPS in the delivery of healthcare and making recommendations on its findings and evaluations regarding how to best meet the needs of Tarrant County’s growing, aging and increasingly diverse population.

Over the next 20 years, Tarrant County’s population is expected to grow 2.9 million residents from the current 2 million.

Of that 2.9 million, more than half — 1.2 million will be living on income that is less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

Further, our senior, 65-and-older population will also increase by 46 percent in the next six years, mostly in the under-served periphery of the county.

Infant mortality, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and especially behavioral health are among the most pressing health concerns of our growing population.

Additionally, Tarrant County’s population will become increasingly more diverse, as illustrated by the percentage change based on the last two census surveys.

The Hispanic population increased 69.3 percent, blacks grew by 45.1 percent and Asians increased 60.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, while the white, non-Hispanic population increased just 4.7 percent.

All of these challenges demonstrate the need for a complex healthcare solution that requires JPS to consider not only expanding its hospital capacity but also its primary and urgent care access points.

Moreover, to lessen the pressure on its safety-net care network, JPS may need to improve its ability to reach the diverse population and collaborate with other organizations.

JPS must look for ways to emphasize the prevention and management of prevalent and controllable conditions while at the same time dealing with a healthcare workforce shortage that only worsens as healthcare demand grows.

To begin formulating this complex solution, the Commissioner’s Court has retained the services of Healthcare Management Associates to gather information from many JPS and community stakeholders.

This effort includes gaining input from the cities served by JPS and other healthcare institutions as well as listening to the diverse voices of JPS patients.

As this information is gathered, it is presented to members of the Citizen’s Blue Ribbon Committee, who in turn will validate the findings through open discussions and ultimately present their recommendations to the Commissioners Court and the JPS Board of Managers.

These Citizen’s Blue Ribbon Committee meetings have been public and recorded. If you have questions or concerns, please attend.

Further, you are encouraged to meet Committee members and make your opinion known.

You can find additional information on meetings, locations, times, etc. on the county website at http://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/jps.

At the center of all of this is staying true to JPS’ core legal mandate of serving the healthcare needs of our indigent residents with compassion and dignity.

It is imperative that we do so with accountable leadership, for the most sophisticated planning is rendered fruitless without proper management.

Money is the tool, not the solution. As Tarrant County grows, its governance effectiveness must also grow accordingly. Our taxpayers expect it, and rightfully so.

Andy Nguyen is Tarrant County commissioner for Precinct 2.

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