By Brian Smith, retired firefighter, EMT, of Hull, Texas
Given my extensive experience in the field of Emergency Medical Services in the Liberty area and beyond, including having transported patients to the Emergency Room at the hospital in Liberty and others throughout southeast Texas, I feel compelled to share my perspective and add to the ongoing discussion regarding the proposal to build a new Hospital in Liberty.
It’s clear that the current facility is functional and its staff are competent medical professionals, but sadly the hospital has not fulfilled the common needs of the community for many years. For example, a very common reason for hospitalization is childbirth, which is a natural, daily occurrence. Many Liberty County citizens were born at the hospital in Liberty in its heyday, but that’s no longer the case and hasn’t been for a long while. The hospital does not even accept patients for simple neonatal care and child delivery.
Additionally, as you might imagine, it is the typical protocol of most EMS companies to transport patients to the nearest facility with the highest level of care. This can be a challenge for EMTs and Paramedics in the field, especially when a patient needs definitive care for specific injuries (such as major burns, head trauma, etc).
In some cases, critically-injured trauma patients and others who need a higher level of care are having that care delayed when EMS companies opt to transport them to the hospital in Liberty. By having to stop at a small, poorly equipped facility, patients are unintentionally placed at serious risk. Not surprisingly, many EMTs and often their patients opt instead to seek a higher level of care that a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center can be ready to provide upon their arrival. Yes, it takes a few minutes to get there, but it takes longer to admit a patient into an Emergency Room only to realize they shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Citizens should be comforted by the fact that today’s paramedics are highly skilled and well-prepared to provide life-sustaining care to patients. Many ambulances are even classified as mobile ICU, a technology common in EMS service for years. This has led to significant improvements in the level of emergency care provided to patients who are being transported for life-threatening injuries that require urgent attention. Additionally, air ambulance service already available throughout Liberty County can get patients to the facility they need within minutes.
I do not believe that government-run healthcare is the solution to these challenges. Some of the most basic services the community needs, and certainly higher levels of specialized care, are not currently available at the Liberty hospital, and to my knowledge are not even on the immediate horizon at the planned new facility.
In my experience, the citizens of south Liberty County would be best served by a private (for profit) hospital willing to extend their services into our area. If only government entities like the Hospital District would get out of the way, perhaps these private entities would be in a better position to see the value in investing their time and significant resources into our local communities.
Brian Smith is a resident of Hull, Texas. He is a retired firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT). He served throughout his career as an emergency medical responder for various emergency medical services, including a decade with the Liberty Fire Department where he had the honor of serving under Chief E. B. (Ben) Pickett before completing his career at the Baytown Fire Department.