The biggest question, does Lubbock really need another heart health care program? According to "Healthgrades," a website that measures quality; Covenant is considered one of the best heart programs in the western region.
Some say Lubbock needs another heart health care facility. However, the other side says the new heart hospital will only take away from what Lubbock has already built. So who's right? And what's being done about it?
Both Covenant and University Medical Centers say Lubbock doesn't have enough nurses to go around and opening a new hospital will only make staffing more difficult for all hospitals. But, the debate goes much deeper than that.
Heart Hospital Vice-President Jim Rheem says it's about choice and that patients deserve that. "This country is based on free enterprise and free enterprise and competition and what you will do is get better and better care for your people," said Rheem during a Monday news conference.
However, Senator Robert Duncan feels differently. "Health care is not necessarily a free market. The consumer does not choose in today's health care system. The consumer doesn't determine the price and in many cases, they don't have the choice of a physician. So really, what it is - is a competition of physicians is what we're really talking about," said the Senator.
Northstar Administrator Ron Rives supports the ideas of providing more health care choices. Not just for patients, but for staff as well. "Yes, there is a shortage. But part of that shortage is the nurses are looking for a professional place to work where they can get a decent salary, where they don't have to work 45 hours a day, take calls on nights and weekends, where they're appreciated," Rives said.
Northstar is an independent outpatient surgery center. Two years ago when it opened, Rives says they faced similar controversy like Lubbock Heart Hospital.
With the new hospital though, Cardiologist Andrew Hansen says it will take away from what Lubbock has invested so much into. Dr. Hansen says Covenant has been rated the number one cardiac facility in the state and he'd like to see that prosper into something more. "I would like to merge the technology we have in private practice and of that of the medical school. We could do some fantastic things. We could make the number one heart facility in the United States, perhaps the world," said Dr. Hansen.
Dr. Hansen says the new facility would only hinder those possibilities.
Controversy or not, the Lubbock Heart Hospital is a reality. It's scheduled to open later this year. Senator Duncan says he is preparing legislation to pass that would require communities to determine a need before any hospital opens or expands.
Duncan says he is also concerned that the new hospital would basically force Covenant to cut its heart health care program because of increased spending of medicare and medicaid.
It is also worth a mention that Senator Duncan is one of Convenant's attorneys. But he says its a matter of doing what's good for Lubbock and not about his business relationship.