Health consultants fail city of Laredo with $250K assessment report

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 12:05 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAREDO, TX. (KGNS) - What would you do with a quarter of a million dollars? It could probably pay off a mortgage—probably two. Laredo city leaders were hoping that amount of money would solve Laredo’s medically under-served problem. However, the company they hired to do so, did not offer the right prescription, and one city councilman now wishes they can get their money back.

“I wish we get a refund for it,” said Dr. Tyler King, City Councilman, District 6. “Turns out my three-year-old daughter could have probably done a better job for the for the price.”

Buyer’s remorse is the best way to describe how Dr. King feels about the job done by Health Management Associates (HMA). They were hired to come up with innovative strategies to recruit physicians and nurses to Laredo. The request for proposal was sent out back in 2021 during the height of Covid-19 when it became very apparent that Laredo lacked in healthcare providers But according to Dr. King, who was not a member of City Council at the time, there were red flags from the beginning.

“Those of us who work in healthcare here in Laredo, we all know why we’re underserved. We know we’re lacking the staff that we need--the physicians, the nurses, the auxiliary staff. We know that nurses need higher pay. We know that it’s personnel more than anything.”

Dr. King further says HMA may not have been the right company for the job.

“If you look at the history of what this consulting firm does, they’re more project managers. This is not really their bread and butter. This project was a bit outside of their wheelhouse in my opinion.” City leaders also confirmed HMA was the only company that submitted a bid for the project. So, Council voted to hire them in a unanimous vote. The, fast forward 18 months later, and disappointment set in.

“We paid $250,000 for these two pamphlets,” said Dr. King. “And they told us nothing we didn’t already know.”

In the report, the company offered strategies that local hospitals already offer. Incentives such as: * Contracts with income guarantees * Sign-on bonuses * Relocation payments * Continuing education allowances * Financial assistance with medical school loans

Dr. King isn’t the only council member taking the consultant’s report to task. Melissa Cigarroa, Council Member for District 4 and married to a local cardiologist, also noted inaccuracies in the report, particularly in claims that cardiology services were not being provided at Doctors Hospital.

“My husband continues to practice at Doctors Hospital, so that is factually incorrect,” she said. “And, within the last 12 months, Doctors Hospital has hired three cardiologists.”

Cigarroa also pointed out that for $250,000, more than just three physicians should have been interviewed.

“It’s seems to me that you took the easy way out,” she said. “You just looked for something you could identify with for an explanation, but in reality, as a community, we’ve been struggling with this for decades. It’s not an easy issue, the hospitals have used various strategies to recruit and look for qualified specialists to come to Laredo and stay, and I just feel you didn’t do your research sufficiently.” Both Dr. King and Cigarroa agreed that when moving forward with consultants, it’s important to express exactly what you’re looking for, especially when the check is being paid for by taxpayers.

“People just want to do the right thing,” said Dr. King. “People want to feel like they’re solving our health disparity problem, but just throwing money at the problem isn’t always the right answer.”

At the end of the meeting, Council voted not to accept this final report from HMA and instead instructed HMA to continue working on it by interviewing additional physicians and to include more research in a section called ‘Competitive Dynamics’ that should have listed findings as to why physicians don’t come to Laredo. Instead, the current report only noted a lawsuit currently in the court system between a local hospital and a clinic as the reason. In response, Council instructed HMA to remove this from the report because the lawsuit has no bearing in this report.

Until another version of the report can be presented, Council voted to hold back the final payment to the company, which is approximately $25K.

The Laredo City Health Department says during the month of February, HMA has been following Council’s instructions, and are hoping to present an updated report to Laredo City Council at the end of March.

For more headlines. click here.