Tarrant voters to decide on $809M bond package for JPS

JPS Health Network


Tarrant County voters are likely to decide in November on an $809 million bond issue to fund a massive expansion and renovation of John Peter Smith Hospital.

The proposed construction project, announced recently by John Peter Smith officials, calls for substantial additions to the aging hospital facility, which occupies areas on both the east and west sides of South Main. The proposal calls for a 10-story, 739,011-square-foot hospital tower at a cost of $510.5 million, an adjoining parking garage with 23,000 spaces at a cost of $72 million and a five-story, 220,000-square-foot psychiatric hospital on the west side of Main Street. In addition, the 10th floor of the current tower would be expanded from 96 beds to 148.

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Another $94 million would be used to renovate other hospital facilities, including the existing parking garage at May Street and Allen Avenue.

Hospital officials have said the bond issue would be supported by annual property valuation increases of 2 percent and would require no tax rate increase.

Tarrant County Commissioners are considering setting the election for Nov. 3, the earliest date available. To set that election, commissioners must vote to call the election by Aug. 24.

In the interim, a series of town hall meetings have been scheduled, at which hospital officials will put their case for the bond issue before the public and answer questions.

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The first of those was held Tuesday, at the Tarrant County Sub-courthouse. During that meeting, JPS President CEO Robert Earley and Chief Operating Officer Bill Whitman told an audience why they believe the project is necessary.

Earley, who came to JPS in 2009, said significant improvements have been made at the hospital since he arrived, but that it remains a hodgepodge of departments and areas that are difficult to manage and confusing to those who seek treatment there.

“When I got here,” he said, “the percentage of patients who came to the emergency room and left without being treated was 15 percent.”

That percentage has dropped to less than 3 percent, he said, but the physical facility remains outdated and inadequate for its needs.

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“If you walk into the emergency room, looking for psychiatric services, you won’t find them there,” he said. Those services, he said, are on upper floors, as are other departments.

“But,” said Earley, “there is no sign.”

Earley also stressed the need for more private rooms. The hospital currently houses most of its patients in three-bed rooms, making it difficult if not impossible to cluster treatment areas.

“Ideally, we would have a floor devoted to cardiology, a floor for orthopedics, but that’s not possible with semi-private rooms.”

Regulations prohibit housing different genders in the same room, as well as persons with infectious diseases, psychiatric patients and jail inmates. JPS provides treatment for all county jail inmates as well as for numerous inmates from city jails throughout the county.

The new facility would provide room for separate treatment areas and more private rooms, as well as allowing for better quality of care and patient comfort, said Earley.

The hospital operates on a yearly budget of roughly $900 million, with roughly a third from property taxes, a third from federal reimbursements and the remainder from insurance payments.

“But the federal government is basing its reimbursements more and more on quality of care and patient satisfaction,” Whitman said. “We need to keep up.”

Under the plan, $714.5 million in bonds would be sold in February 2016 for the new construction projects. The remaining $94.5 million earmarked for renovation work would be sold in February 2018.

If voters approve the bond package, design work would start at the beginning of 2016, with construction of the new hospital starting in the second quarter of 2017 and completed by early 2020. Renovations to the current hospital would begin at that point.

Construction on the new psychiatric hospital would start in late 2016 and be completed mid-2018.

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court and the Tarrant County Hospital District are hosting several town hall Meetings on the bond issue and plans to update and expand John Peter Smith Hospital. Remaining town hall meetings, their times and locations, are:

• Monday, July 6, 6 p.m.

Resource Connection Gymnasium

2300 Circle Drive

Fort Worth 76119

• Tuesday, July 7, 6 p.m.

Lake Worth Multi-Purpose and Meeting Facility

7005 Charbonneau Road

Lake Worth 76135

• Tuesday, July 21, 6 p.m.

Arlington Subcourthouse

700 East Abram St.

Arlington 76010

• Wednesday, July 22, 6 p.m.

Mansfield City Council Chambers

1200 East Broad Street

Mansfield 76063

Updated to provide correct titles for Earley and Whitman.