Future brighter in health industry
Little River Healthcare (LRH) now prov ides 250 jobs and has a $750,000 payroll in the Rockdale area, according to Jeff Madison, hospital administrator.
“And that payroll is every two weeks,” Madison said. “I’m not sure just how many people in this area realize just how big an industry health care has become in Rockdale.”
And the future looks bright. LRH has a new logo and will now refer to Rockdale’s hospital as “Little River Healthcare Rockdale Hospital, Richards Memorial Campus.”
Little River Healthcare continues to operate two clinics here, the LRH Family Care Center, on the hospital grounds, and the LRH Rockdale Clinic at 602 North Main.
LRH, RISD—With Alcoa no longer the Rockdale area’s largest employer— the aluminum company employed well over 1,000 when it closed its smelter in 2008-2009—that status is now open to interpretation.
LRH’s 250 employed, counting physician specialists who practice part-time in Rockdale, is virtually the same as the Rockdale ISD, which lists 253 employees, including part-time, monitors and bus drivers.
What about Luminant? The power generating company employs just under 400 at its Sandow Power Plant Units 4 and 5, plus its Three Oaks Mine, about 200 in each location.
But the Three Oaks Mine is difficult to “score” in Rockdale-area employment. The mine isn’t even in Milam County. It’s located in Lee and Bastrop counties. However, it still provides substantial employment for many Rockdale-area residents.
CLINIC VISITS—What isn’t difficult to score numerically is the dramatic rebound of LRH in Rockdale.
“Most clinics in a town this size would be delighted to see 6,000 visits a year,” Dr. John M. Weed III noted. “We’re seeing 35,000 in our clinics.”
“What’s happened is that we’ve become a regional health care center,” Madison said. “It’s not just the city limits of Rock- dale, or even the Rockdale area any more.”
LRH’s new logo serves as a symbol of a new era for the company, the hospital and the Rockdale Hospital District, the governing board which has struggled with a number of financial crises, the most recent in the last half of 2010.
Blackhawk Healthcare, which operated the hospital and two clinics from 2006-10, imploded financially and apparently came within a couple of days of closing RMH in November, 2010.
Kevin Owens of Georgetown purchased Blackhawk that month for the express purpose of keeping the Rockdale hospital open.
“Blackhawk is no more,” Madison said. “It’s not a word you’ll hear us use any more in referring to Rockdale health care.”
TA X PAY ER— Subst a nt ia l debts remain from the Blackhawk era but the hospital is making headway in paying them off, according to Madison.
That includes the hospital district, itself. The district has become an ad valorem taxpayer and pays annual taxes on its medical buildings.
“ We think that’s pretty significant,” Madison said. “ The hospital district used to impose an ad valorem tax on Rockdale residents. It no longer does, of course, and now it’s a taxpayer, not a tax-beneficiary.”
The district also no longer collects any sales tax. The amount which used to be earmarked for the hospital now goes to Rockdale’s Municipal Development District, which was created in a 2010 vote.
The property tax was originally 48 cents per $100 valuation when it was enacted in 2000.
The tax was cut in subsequent years and reduced to zero in 2007.