BORGER, TEX. – Service is the key to a good hospital, according to an emergency room doctor from Mississippi.
Almost 200 people crowded into the Borger Middle School auditorium Thursday night to hear Dr. Robert Corkern, dressed in a white lab coat with stethoscope, tell about turning around a bankrupt hospital in Batesville, Miss.
Borger is split on building a new $25 million hospital and financing it with a bond issue to be paid off by tax money.
While the two major civic groups battling on the fractious issue seem to agree the city needs a new hospital, the question is how much and who will pay for it.
Brandi Hannon, secretary of the Borger Betterment Committee, said she found Dr. Corkern and invited him to come to Borger.
"Our hospital facility is old," Hannon said.
Another Borger group, Invest In Yourself, has proposed building a new hospital.
"We want to explore other options," Hannon said.
She said she called a number of hospitals and management groups and finally talked to Ray Shoemaker, a hospital administrator and partner in Tri-Lakes Corp., a health-care management firm in Batesville, Miss.
"I called them because I heard they had a beautiful new facility," Hannon said.
She said she also heard that they had gone through the same problems Borger is facing with its health-care facility.
"The situation sounded so much like ours," Shoemaker said, "We wanted to come here and share our experiences with the people of Borger."
Corkern said Batesville faced similar bonding, emotional and financial issues as Borger. He said he’d like to help Borger navigate through those problems.
"We’re staying neutral," Corkern said. "We’re not taking sides. We’re here to discuss the issues."
Corkern said a hospital must be service-oriented.
"You have to provide service to people," he said. "If you keep that up, people will come. If not, you will fail."
Corkern recommended that the residents of Borger talk to their doctors about what the problems are at the hospital.
"A new building does absolutely nothing to fix the problem," Corkern said.
It only exacerbates the problem because of the additional debt, he said.
"I’m not saying not to build a new building," he added, "but you’ve got to fix the problems first."
He told the crowd at the Borger Middle School that the town needs a new building.
"This town is going to have to have a new hospital," Corkern said.
Norman Lambert, president and chief executive officer of Borger’s Golden Plains Community Hospital, said the original part of the hospital was built in 1937. The latest addition dates to 1968.
After meeting with Shoemaker, Corkern and Missy Hutto, a registered nurse and third partner in Tri-Lakes, Lambert said the trio told him the key to a successful hospital is getting doctors to support it, a message Corkern repeated Thursday.
Corkern was asked to run the Batesville hospital, he said, because he was the only one speaking to everybody when the city and county decided to sell it.
By the end of the first six months, the hospital was meeting its obligations, Corkern said. By the end of nine months, the hospital was paying some of its back obligations. By the end of the first year, Corkern said, the hospital was able to meet its $1.5 million bond obligation.
Borger resident Lee Dunham wanted to know whether Corkern was available to come to Borger.
"I would love the chance to come here and do what we did in Batesville," Corkern said. "This one isn’t going to last long."
Saying he didn’t object to a new hospital, Roy Haley asked whether Borger needed a $25 million hospital.
"When the service is there," Corkern told him, "you’re going to need more room than you think."