FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2007
As a Father and Son legislator team, we've worked hard for the good of South Texas.
Serving on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III on the House Appropriations Committee, we garnered $9.9 million for renovation and associated construction of the South Texas Health Care System (STHCS) in Harlingen this past legislative session.
We were also able to convince our fellow legislators that the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) continues to expand and develop, thus needing an additional $5 million in increased funding. Together these two budgetary initiatives will go a long way toward improving our health care/education infrastructure in South Texas.
After session, Rep. Lucio III, reiterated that we worked tirelessly with the Senate Finance Committee, the House Appropriations Committee and the legislative leadership to ensure that the funding would go through. He also added, "Our intended efforts are to make the RAHC, the STHCS and our community one of the best health care centers around the state."
For decades, the South Texas Hospital has served indigent residents in the Lower Rio Grande Valley through outpatient services. In 1996, the Federal Joint Commission on Accreditation on Health Organizations determined that the South Texas Hospital was laden with serious structural problems and announced that the hospital would not be re-accredited unless a new facility was erected.
In 1999, I worked on a bill that enabled the state to enter into agreements with health services districts. With the goal of eventually becoming such a district, the South Texas Hospital became the South Texas Health Care System, which allowed public or private providers to contract or directly provide services. STHCS, a state-funded clinic for the indigent, is operated by the Department of State Health Services.
For 10 years, we faced a funding problem from the lack of critical monies to update the facility. Additionally, a number of hurdles prevented us from improving the Harlingen facility, including bureaucratic red tape. Fortunately, by working with the leadership in our respective budget writing committees, we successfully overcame all these hurdles by authoring a unique budget directive which ensures that nearly $10 million will be expended in the next two years. The implications of our budget rider are far reaching since the money will help produce a state-of-the-art facility in Harlingen. This means the Valley will have a clean, efficient complex with modern equipment for our indigent sick.
Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell has been a strong proponent of this initiative. He explained, "The funding for the State Center is an absolute homerun for Harlingen. These are the kinds of initiatives which are cementing Harlingen's position as the health care leader in South Texas."
The $5 million for the RAHC also means progress towards improving health care in the region. It is a step in the right direction towards developing a Rio Grande Valley University of Texas Health Science Center and full-fledged Medical School in the future.
We appreciated the support shown by Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, president of the U.T. Health Science Center at San Antonio. In turn, he expressed his gratitude for our work with these words: "I am most grateful to Rep. Lucio and Sen. Lucio for their efforts, as members of the powerful House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees (respectively), to secure $5 million for the RAHC for the 2008-2009 biennium.
"These much needed state resources will allow us to expand the operations of the new Teaching Learning Lab at the RAHC in Harlingen, as well as support on-going efforts to recruit research scientists/faculty to the RAHC research campus in Edinburg."
A champion for bettering his community, Mayor Boswell further commended our work. He added, "Increased funding for operations at the RAHC was one of this community's top legislative priorities for this session. I was pleased that our community was able to provide support and assistance to Sen. Lucio's and Rep. Lucio's leadership in pushing the increases through."
This past session, we also both filed similar bills that would establish the Rio Grande Valley U.T. Health Science Center and Medical School.
Although the bills did not gain approval this time, my son said with confidence and determination, "Our bills weren't approved, but we started the momentum and will continue to build on it to make sure that South Texas gets its much needed and much deserved, full-fledged medical facility and medical school."
I agree wholeheartedly. For now, we are pleased with the two-fold funding to improve medical care access and to continue paving the way for a health science center to serve South Texas.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.