Featured: As the Texas Legislature and Congress in 2019 began a new year of work, DHR Health and the Border Health Political Action Committee (Border Health PAC) will continue to develop and support state and federal legislation that benefit deep South Texas, according to Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen. He is featured in this image on Saturday, December 9, 2017, at a major event held in the Embassy Suites in McAllen on behalf of his supporters, who brought Christmas toys to be distributed to low-income children in his district.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
DHR Health and the Border Health PAC “have been very effective in doing good things for South Texas,” says Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
As the Texas Legislature and Congress in 2019 began a new year of work, DHR Health and the Border Health Political Action Committee (Border Health PAC) will continue to develop and support state and federal legislation that benefit deep South Texas, according to Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen.
“They have been very effective in doing good things for South Texas,” said González, who is in his second two-year term leading Texas’ 15th Congressional District. “They are building relationships, and if there is legislation that impacts the health care of South Texans, they will be at the forefront of those conversations.”
DHR Health is a physician-owned health system and the only locally owned and operated hospital left in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. Anchored in southwest Edinburg, with a growing presence in neighboring McAllen, DHR Health offers some of the most comprehensive medical care on the U.S. southern border, with over 1,400 nurses and 700 physicians providing care in 70 specialties and sub-specialties.
Additionally, DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, and encompasses a general acute hospital with a 24/7 Level III Trauma Facility the only dedicated women’s hospital South of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, over 60 clinics Valleywide, advanced cancer services, and the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley, to name a few.
Border Health PAC works to promote the interests and health of the Rio Grande Valley along the deep southern U.S. – Mexico border region of Texas. In general, a political action committee in the United States is an organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation.
Texas’ 15th Congressional District includes a portion of Hidalgo County, which has the largest population in the district, and stretches from the Edinburg and McAllen region northward to include Jim Hogg, Brooks, Duval, Live Oak, Karnes, Wilson and Guadalupe counties. An estimated 700,000 residents live in Texas’ 15th Congressional District.
González said the legislative influence of DHR Health and Border Health PAC have been effectively used for many years to improve the quality-of-life and economic health of the four-county Rio Grande Valley, with its estimated 1.5 million residents.
“It has been very visionary on their part,” reflected the congressman, who praised the vast financial and intellectual contributions by DHR Health into the region, and the willingness and ability of Border Health PAC to contribute to the successes of state and federal legislation that positively affect the Valley and Texas.
“Their investment in South Texas reaps benefits to many who don’t even realize they are being helped by it, not just elected officials, but health care providers, health care recipients, and many other businesses which prosper from the revenues that are brought by these institutions to our region,” González noted. “When we talk about Border Health PAC, or DHR Health, they bring thousands of jobs to our region, and most are high-paying jobs. So every time that they are growing their care and expanding their businesses here in our region, they are also creating a lot of high-paying jobs, they are helping us receive better health care here in our community.”
DHR Health’s and Border Health PAC’s influence strengthen Valley lawmakers
With a history of legislative involvement going back more than a decade, DHR Health and Border Health PAC have helped González deliver on behalf of his constituents.
“I can tell you I reaped some fruits of that when I showed up to Congress for the first time in 2017, going and speaking to Rep. (Nancy) Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who was highest-ranking member of my party, and her knowing my district, knowing my region, knowing people here, and being very nice and very helpful to me,” he said.
On Thursday, September 27, 2007, Pelosi, who earlier that year had become the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives – and as such, held the highest office by a woman in U.S. political history – traveled to Edinburg for the grand opening of the Women’s Hospital, which is part of DHR Health.
On Thursday, January 3, 2019, Pelosi was elected by the majority of her colleagues to once again become the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
But Pelosi is not the only national and state figure hosted by Border Health PAC and DHR Health at its facilities.
Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, Pelosi’s predecessor as the 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (October 2015 to January 2, 2019), also visited the DHR Health and Border Health PAC leadership in October 2017.
Gov. Greg Abbott, Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), who is the immediate past Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, and scores of other appointed and elected state and congressional legislative leaders, over the years also have been welcomed to the Valley by DHR officials.
Carlos Cárdenas, MD, Chairman, Board of Directors, DHR Health, said DHR Health and Border Health PAC representatives use those local meetings with state and national leaders to promote issues of great importance to all Valley residents.
“Our mission has been with a regional intent. Anything that is good for our community is good for DHR. Period,” said Cárdenas. “I was raised that way. If you do the right things for the community, the people will stand by you. This has been a mission of love, a true commitment to wanting to transform the health care in our area.”
He said the leaders of DHR Health and Border Health PAC’s efforts on behalf of their home region are inspired by their dedication to the most-vulnerable residents of the Valley.
“Recognizing that there are families in our community who heretofore may not have been able to leave the area to take their children to take the certain levels of care that are required, because of certain types or illnesses or problems – those days are over,” Cárdenas said. “We are living and seeing the transformation in health care right before our eyes.”
Texas Speaker of the House Bonnen visits with DHR Health leadership: “We held great discussions about issues important to the border medical community.”
One of the most recent legislative leaders who learned more about the Valley from DHR Health and Border Health PAC leaders was Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, was unanimously elected as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
Bonnen came to the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on Monday, November 26, 2018.
In a posting on his twitter account (https://twitter.com/repdennisbonnen), Bonnen featured images from that meeting.
Among the high-ranking pillars of the community at he meeting with Bonnen were Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. Alex Domínguez, D-Brownsville, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Alonzo Cantú, Chairman, Board of Directors, Border Health PAC, Roberto Haddad, Vice President and Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy, DHR Health, and Cárdenas.
“We held great discussions about issues important to the border medical community,” Bonnen stated in his tweet.
Twitter is a free social networking microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms and devices. Tweets and replies to tweets can be sent by cell phone text message, desktop client or by posting at the Twitter.com website.
“It was certainly a tremendous opportunity to sit and talk with him, and tell him our story, so he could see in the first person who we are, what we’re about, what’s important to us,” said Cárdenas. “Most people (in their first visit to DHR Health) learn first-hand about our community, how important it to us, what it means to be a resident of the Rio Grande Valley, what our relative geographic isolation has been, why it is important to have the things we think we should have for 1.5 million people. Those are the issues that drive us, and drive me, every single day.”
DHR Health, Border Health PAC fight negative stereotypes about the Valley
In the process of educating state and national leaders about deep South Texas, officials with DHR and Border Health PAC play important roles in striking down negative stereotypes of the Valley that have been carried in some of the national news media.
“For many of them, and I have seen it happen, where they come and are able to separate fiction from fact, just the ability to open their eyes to what the issues truly are, what this community is, is very important,” Cárdenas said. “We have been painted by others in ways that are not accurate to suit other people’s ends. It is always important for them to get a first-hand experience about what’s what. We’re truly transparent. They ask us questions, and we give them an answer, whether it’s one they want to hear or not.”
During the session with Bonnen, the importance of state funding to improve the Texas Trauma Network,
which would benefit the Valley, was emphasized as a legislative priority throughout the state.
The Trauma Network in the State of Texas is made up of 288 designated trauma hospitals, first responders, and emergency medical service providers.
The Trauma Network in the State of Texas is comprised of 22 regions and includes 18 Level I Comprehensive Trauma Centers, 21 Level II Major Trauma Centers, 56 Level III Advanced Trauma Centers, and 193 Level IV Basic Trauma Centers.
Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center a key legislative priority for the Valley and Texas
“We spoke about a variety of issues, including the same concerns that we have been talking to everybody about, which is the need for a Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center, not only here in the Valley, but across the state,” he said. “We need to build redundancy in other parts of Texas because today, it may have been Hurricane Harvey that hit Beaumont and Houston, where other centers were able to step up and fill the voids, but tomorrow it may be right here. We need the redundancy in the system where other communities can step up and help fellows Texans, so the Texas Trauma Network is what we have really been supporting. It is a statewide issue.”
In general, a trauma center is a hospital equipped and staffed to provide care for patients suffering from major traumatic injuries such as falls, motor vehicle collisions, or gunshot wounds. A trauma center may also refer to an emergency department without the presence of specialized services to care for victims of major trauma.
A Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center is a comprehensive regional resource that is a tertiary care facility central to the trauma system. A Level I Trauma Center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury.
It is the threat of weather disasters such as Hurricane Harvey that also justifies the need for a Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center(s), and not just for the benefit of the Rio Grande Valley, said Raúl Barreda, Jr., MD, Trauma Medical Director for the Level III Trauma Center at DHR Health.
“The Trauma Network identified glaring holes after Hurricane Ike (in September 2008) hit the Houston area. They said, ‘You need to do this, you need to do this, you need to do this.’ They shored everything up,” Barreda reported. “When (Hurricane) Harvey hit (in 2017), there were three Level 1 trauma centers and four Level II trauma centers in Galveston and Houston, a significant improvement from when Hurricane Ike hit the region a few years prior. During Hurricane Ike, the Level I trauma center at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston were flooded. The trauma network in the greater Houston area was overwhelmed and they could not care for the people that needed it done. Due to the investments made and despite the catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Harvey, the Houston trauma network was not overwhelmed.”
Gov. Abbott supports Level 1 Comprehensive Trauma Center for deep South Texas
With momentum continuing to build for securing state funding for a Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center(s) in the Rio Grande Valley, the region’s top legislative leaders have support for that life-saving measure from the highest elected state officeholder in Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott, in a letter addressed earlier this fall to the Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation, has promised to use his powerful influence in the Texas Legislature and elsewhere to help secure state money to establish at least one Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center in one of the largest metropolitan areas of Texas.
“A Level I trauma center would strengthen the healthcare network in times of disaster, and it would also serve as a needed resource to the 1.5 million people who call the Rio Grande Valley home,” Abbott stated in his letter, dated September 26, 2018. “This is why I fully support efforts to establish this goal.”
Barreda explained that Abbott’s endorsement on behalf of a Level I Comprehensive Trauma Center in the Rio Grande Valley elevates the prominence of that issue.
“By specifically naming the Valley, Gov. Abbott has significantly justified the need for such a resource, and with thousands of House and Senate bills that are filed every session, he will help make sure this measure is not lost in the legislative process,” Barreda said.
Martínez said DHR Health’s leadership also credits the Valley’s top elected officials for their support.
“We have one of the more powerful state legislative delegations in history that has taken on this cause, and we also are blessed to have secured the important combined political support from our county commissioners courts and growing number of city councils/city commissions in the Valley,” Martínez said. “We look forward, at the wise direction of our state legislators, to working with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen.”
For more information, please contact Roberto Haddad, Vice President and Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy at DHR Health, or Jesse Ozuna, Government Affairs Officer at DHR Health, at 956/362-7165. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).