City Council votes to hire consultant to address Laredo’s medically underserved status

Due to the struggle with Laredo being deemed medically underserved, the Laredo City Council this week approved the hiring of an outside consultant to review and assess the town’s general health issues and medical needs. underserved.

Mayor Pete Saenz brought up the point because he thinks a consultant could find solutions to the lingering issues plaguing Laredo and its residents.

“This case has been ongoing for a while now. We were sort of working with the county, for some reason they decided not to join us, and that’s okay I think,” Saenz said as he called staff. of Laredo Health to answer some questions about the designation.

Before Dr. Victor Trevino of the Laredo Health Authority spoke, Saenz acknowledged that the city needed help and had needed it for years. Bringing in a consultant to review the situation — as well as bringing together leaders from the hospital, city, and community — would be a start in addressing the situation and creating a plan for a solution.

However, Trevino said that with his experience and knowledge, solving the problem of the lack of medical personnel had a simple solution.

“As for the medically underserved situation and the lack of medical personnel, it’s always been the same,” Trevino said. “We’re trying to identify it, we’re trying to look at it from different angles, but the bottom line is we need to get more medical staff here, and one of the best ways to do that is through incentives.

“Talking to some of the doctors who have just arrived here, I asked them, ‘Why did you come here. You’re not even from here? And the answer is pretty much the same: it’s the money. The motivation was there. »

As some doctors deal with monumental student loans, incentives would entice them to move to an area that might not be as convenient or close to their hometown, according to Trevino. He added that at the end of his residency, he would have gone to Alaska if the incentive was right.

Board member Vanessa Perez cited Gateway Community Health Center’s residency programs and how they can help attract new doctors to the city.

Trevino added that some of these programs specifically help doctors pay off student debt and secure residency space, which he said was an attractive incentive.

“At first, we lack funds when we start up,” Trevino said. “We are looking for places that would create that incentive and pay off student loans – all or part of it. (That) is one of the incentives that I think would work.

Given what was said at the meeting, this would all become part of the solutions plan once the city hires the consultant, which the council unanimously approved.

Laredo has been considered medically underserved for decades, due to numerous issues including a lack of medical personnel. Between the high percentage of the uninsured population and the lack of hospital capacity for the city’s population, the root cause would be a host of factors that have already been discussed amid the pandemic.

According to the most recent data from the Texas Department of State Health Services on Friday, Laredo’s total hospital capacity to serve this region is the last of all hospital regions in Texas with 446 total beds for 262,491 residents. In contrast, Midland-Odessa sits just above Laredo with a population of 269,372 but has a total hospital capacity of 1,770 beds, and Lubbock is just below Laredo with 258,862 while having 1,395 beds. .

Since January 18, the omicron variant has been the dominant strain of COVID-19 and with its higher transmissibility, reported cases have skyrocketed. According to Trevino, if a small percentage of the total number of cases becomes severe, local hospitals could be overwhelmed despite omicron being a milder strain.

As it stands, city health officials have sent requests to state staff to help with the growing number of cases and to make sure hospital staff aren’t overwhelmed.

Comments are closed.