UT Health Carthage

Panola County commissioners on Tuesday rejected a request from UT Health Carthage for help with COVID-19 expenses.

Panola County commissioners unanimously voted against providing federal COVID stimulus funding to UT Health Carthage at their Tuesday meeting.

The hospital had previously asked the county for $369,000 to help cover staffing and other costs they had accrued during this most recent COVID surge when the state was not providing assistance. CEO Mark Leitner told county officials at their Aug. 31 meeting, that the state had directed UT Health to ask their local entities for funding relief through the American Rescue Plan funds the cities and counties had received.

County officials told Leitner on Aug. 31 that they have not yet allocated any of the $4 million in COVID stimulus funds they had gotten. On Tuesday, commissioners denied the request.

“What do y’all wanna do?” County Judge LeeAnn Jones asked.

“I say no,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Dale LaGrone replied.

“I don’t think any of the surrounding counties are doing it either,” Jones said.

Aside from requesting the county’s help, Leitner and UT Health Carthage have asked the City of Carthage for $130,000 to help with COVID expenses. City officials told Leitner on Sept. 13 that, while they wanted to work with the hospital, they would wait to see if the Texas Legislature appropriates any funding for hospital COVID expenses in this current session.

“So we may need to wait and look at what the state does do,” Mayor Lin Joffrion said at the time.

“That would be my recommendation is — and Mark and I had a good conversation,” City Manager Steve Williams said. “We all know that our hospital, we’re proud to have it and we want y’all here and want to work with y’all. But obviously we want to make sure we handle our funds as well as we possibly can also.”

Elsewhere in East Texas, Leitner told city officials, UT Health has also asked their other city and county agencies for COVID expense help.

Smith County commissioners voted Tuesday to provide $4.5 million in total to UT Health East Texas, Christus Trinity Mother Frances and three emergency rooms to help local hospitals retain staff and fight COVID-19. UT Health will receive $2 million of that allocation.

Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said that the county recognizes and supports all health care workers and would give compensation to all of them if possible.

“Our approach here is to help retain local staff critical to treating patients with COVID-19, where there is a critical supply shortage by rewarding them for continuing to work in Smith County facilities over the next two months rather than chase contract work outside of the County,” he said.

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