Voters approved a $2.5 billion bond issue on Tuesday from Harris Health System that hospital leaders said was “life or death.” The bond package would help rebuild and upgrade several hospitals and clinics.
With more than 99 percent of voting centers counted early Wednesday, the bond measure garnered widespread support, and passed easily.
Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, president and CEO of Harris Health System, said he was “delighted” the unprecedented hospital district bond request was approved by voters.
“We are proud of the trust and the love that residents of Harris County have expressed about Harris Health System by passing this bond proposal,” Porsa said in a statement. “We are equally delighted to see that voters agree with the value and the need for investing in the future health of our community.”
The bond is expected to cost less than $6 a month for the owner of a home valued at $300,000. In about a decade, when the entire bond amount has been borrowed, the cost to taxpayers will amount to about 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, according to Harris Health.
The bond package will fund a new Level 1-capable trauma center at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital that would open in 2028, as well as update and expand the longtime safety net hospital. The bond also will be used for improvements to Ben Taub Hospital and more Harris Health clinics will be opened throughout the county and existing ones renovated.
The American College of Surgeons recommends one high-level trauma center for every 1 million people. In Harris County, which has a population of almost 4.8 million people, there are two adult Level I trauma centers – at Memorial Hermann Hospital and Ben Taub, both located in the Texas Medical Center.
A survey from last month by the University of Houston indicated nearly 60 percent of likely voters supported the bond request; 16 percent were undecided.
Ragen Doyle, 29, from Sunset Heights, said that while Houston has among the top healthcare facilities in the country, it’s difficult for many to access them, which led her to support the bond.
“Our standing as far as healthcare coverage and access to care is embarrassing,” she said. “I’m all for increasing access and improving healthcare infrastructure throughout the city.”
Linda Offord, 66, from Northwood Manor, said she voted to support the measure.
“It’s definitely something the city needs,” said Offord, whose mother and sister are retired from Harris Health System. “They need all the help they can get.”
Harris Health, formerly known as the Harris County Hospital District, operates the county’s public safety net hospital system, which includes two hospitals and 20 clinics, health centers and specialty clinics. Improvements are expected to cost $2.9 billion, the health system said, and in addition to the bond it will fund the projects through philanthropic donations and internal cost cutting measures.
The Harris Health Board of Trustees unanimously voted to put forth the bond proposal to Commissioners Court in April, with health system leaders saying the money was vital to keeping people alive. The commissioners voted unanimously in August to put the bond on the ballot.