City Councilman Jim Gilbreath was highly complimented last month when he proposed a joint City/County Health Department. Gilbreath modestly says it wasn't his idea, but voters, bloggers and Facebook fans still gave Gilbreath high praise for pursuing it.
Now, the city's Board of Health seems to have made progress. The Board did not strike a deal with Lubbock County, at least not yet, but rather one of Lubbock County's partners.
On Monday the Board meets to "Review, approve and recommend to the City Council a memorandum of agreement between the Texas Tech University Health Science Center ... and the Health Department."
The HSC has a close working relationship with Lubbock County's Hospital District, better known as University Medical Center.
"They [HSC officials] want to do a fellowship in infectious disease. This deal would be for one or two doctors who have done their residencies -- to put them at the city's STD clinic," Gilbreath says.
Gilbreath continues, "We already have a dermatology fellowship at the Health Department."
In September, the Health Department was slated to suffer deep budget cuts with many of its functions being relegated to other departments. The move caught many Lubbock residents and even some City Council members by surprise.
To ease the controversy, the City Council temporarily put a stop to the dismantling of the Health Department, but vowed to keep looking for ways to save money. That's what led to Gilbreath's proposal for negotiations with the County.
Covenant Medical System might also want to help rescue the Health Department. The city says the current location at 19th & Texas might need to close down because of the building's condition.
Gilbreath says during one Board of Health meeting Richard Parks, President and CEO of Covenant, asked about the city's needs for a new location.
Gilbreath quotes Parks as saying, "If Covenant were to have some facilities that might work, might the city be interested?" Gilbreath says, "Everyone nodded and said sure."
Gilbreath says Covenant might provide a location at reduced cost. "It hasn't gone anywhere yet," he says.
So, is this the end of the City's talks with the County? "There's more to come," Gilbreath says.
The Board of Health still has more than a month left before it must report back to the City Council. Nevertheless, the Board is scheduled to present the HSC fellowship to City Council this week.
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