Llano County Hospital Authority efforts to establish the Lake of the Hills Regional Medical Center at the corner of SH 71 and US 281 took a giant step onto firmer ground Friday when a group of agreements was signed at the Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls.
Partner in the development, Scott & White, revealed plans to purchase an additional 22 acres of land adjoining the 18 acres previously donated by Flatrock Springs developers and set their sights on initially constructing a facility of between 70 and 120 beds. Scott & White committed to preliminary work that would ready them to begin construction within 30 days of City of Marble Falls utilities reaching the new hospital site.
“This new hospital is the culmination of efforts by the many community groups, government and business leaders who came together for one purpose: to expand residents’ access to high-quality health care,” said Dr. Alfred Knight, president and CEO of Scott & White.
Lake of the Hills will be a full-service hospital designed to provide complete local healthcare. Scott & White has opened its system to accept most major insurances and the hospital will use an open-staff model, allowing any credentialed physician to admit patients.
Dr. Knight said, “We want to thank the Llano Memorial Healthcare System; Dr. David Hoerster and his colleagues; developers of Flatrock Springs including Molly and Armand Biglari and Sam Martin; the City of Marble Falls; the leadership of Llano and Burnet counties; and of course Wayne Anderson (president of the LOHRMC board), and Mike Jenkins (LCHA president) for their tireless efforts in this endeavor.”
State and regional dignitaries, including Senator Troy Fraser witnessed the signing of documents including:
• Agreement with the 22 physicians of the Hoerster Group to merge with Scott & White staff April 1.
• Management agreement between Scott & White and the Llano Memorial Healthcare System, also effective April 1, to manage the 30-bed Llano Memorial Hospital and a network of rural health clinics, with LMHS CEO Kevin Leeper, also becoming Scott & White staff.
• Memorandum of Understanding between Scott & White and the developers of Flatrock Springs for purchase an additional 22 acres at the new site, bringing the new medical campus to a total of 40 acres to accommodate future growth.
• Water and wastewater services and development agreement between the City of Marble Falls and the owners of Flatrock Springs to bring water services to the site.
In welcoming the Hoerster physicians to Scott & White, Knight noted the high quality of care the Hoerster doctors have provided to the Hill Country and the Llano Memorial Healthcare System, with which the Hoerster physicians have been affiliated for decades.
“Our organization was founded by and continues to be led by physicians, and we are proud to include Dr. David Hoerster and his colleagues as members of our staff,” said Knight.
Speaking on behalf of the physicians in the group, Dr. Hoerster said Scott & White’s reputation made the transition attractive.
“While Scott & White was built around doctors, the interests of its patients have always come first,” Hoerster said. “That is the kind of organization that we gladly and unanimously wanted to join.”
Studies under way will help determine the completed size of the hospital, but current estimates call for a facility between 70 and 120 beds at a cost of more than $1 million per bed. Final cost for the new hospital and medical office building is expected to top $140 million. The new facility could add up to 400 jobs to the local economy.
“This expansion demonstrates our substantial commitment to the Hill Country, and allows us to provide the right care in the right place,” said Knight. Knight said construction will begin one month after water services reach the building site, which is projected for next year. Construction of a medical office building is expected to take about nine months, with the hospital construction phase projected at between 18 to 24 months.
In the weeks leading up to the signing ceremony, the LCHA took preparatory steps here. Plans were first outlined in a private meeting January 31 for Llano County and City of Llano leaders from which the press was excluded. On February 4, a meeting was conducted with the board of the LMHS Foundation board. The LCHA finally voted approval of agreements with Scott & White February 7.
At that meeting, Anderson outlined the10-year management agreement, ultimately resulting in Scott & White owning and operating Llano Memorial Hospital.
Until the time that Scott & White accepts the assets and liabilities of the local facility, the LCHA board will still be in charge of the hospital, Anderson said. The land on which the hospital sits is not included and a lease agreement will be renegotiated with the county.
To be known as Llano Memorial Hospital, an affiliate of Scott & White, the local hospital is to continue to be a licensed general care hospital with Medicare certification and emergency medical service. All personnel are to eventually become Scott & White employees.
“Scott and White reserves the right to cancel the (10-year) contract if they decide to build a new facility in Llano,” said Anderson. “They might look at that two years after the new hospital is up and running. They have pretty much decided that renovation of the current facility would not be a good expenditure.”
Each of the board members, in turn, was invited to comment on the agreements that they later voted to accept.
“My concern for a long time has been future security for Llano Hospital,” said Dr. Hoerster. “Entering into this agreement will achieve that.”
“This hospital has been around a long time and has survived hardships,” said Kelly Oestreich. “I worked at the hospital 15 years. My mother worked there from the day the doors opened until her retirement . . . and my mother-in-law worked there for roughly 10 years. . . It is important to a lot of people and has a long history.”
Bill Jennings credited his predecessors on the board for their vision. “We needed a partner of the quality of Scott & White,” he said. “We didn’t have the money to make the services available that we wanted. Scott & White is non-profit. That was one of the rules I had. If it had not been a non-profit (partner) I was not going to vote for it. There is some faith involved in this. I trust Scott & White.”
Dr. Jack Franklin praised the coming access to specialty care for his patients and Dr. Bob Shafer and Ken Caskey looked forward to local residents being able to support family members hospitalized for that specialized care close to home.
Leeper called the match with Scott & White good chemistry. “They practice and think like we do in so many ways,” he said.
Jodi Babcock took that sentiment a step further. “Scott & White is used to working in the small town environment,” she said. “Their major hub is up in Temple. I asked, ‘How are you going to get people to staff such a large hospital here?’ They said, ‘We are used to this. We go into the high schools. We start training kids early; let them know there are jobs here.’”
Babcock concluded, “I think that is why negotiations have gone so well. They want to be here.”
Jenkins noted that board member Trudy Kelley was unable to attend the special meeting, but she sent word that if she had been there, she would have added her own vote to the unanimous vote Thursday night.