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Skip Navigation LinksHarris Health About Us News An open letter to Harris County residents

An open letter to Harris County residents

The experience from the last two years during the COVID pandemic showed that our public healthcare system had been neglected, underfunded and unprepared for this emergency. Yet, healthcare providers at Harris Health System worked around the clock for our community, with limited supplies and challenging conditions. We called them heroes and were grateful for their effort.

Now is the time to remember that, and to know that our community investment in our health and our public healthcare system is appropriate to respond to the next emergency.

As we exit this pandemic, we are entering a period of healthcare staff shortages, where the workforce has been decimated, and we have fewer doctors, nurses and healthcare workers to shoulder the burden of caring for the community. We are now tasked to rebuild this workforce and truly recognize their sacrifice by giving them the work environment they need to thrive.

As board officers for Harris Health System, we are grateful to our elected leaders on Commissioners Court for their open and continued support for Harris Health System and the entire staff who are dedicated to providing exceptional healthcare to our most vulnerable residents. We are confident our elected officials understand the decisions they make can impact the health of our community.

We are deeply troubled by the recent message that is now becoming clearer regarding the annual tax rate discussion in this community, and the impact it will have on Harris Health and the more than 250,000 patients it serves. Harris Health is the largest community-owned healthcare system in Texas and one of the largest in the country, yet it receives the smallest tax rate support of all the major public health systems in Texas.

We want you to know that when it comes to your taxes, Harris Health is a safe investment as our services benefit all residents. Additionally, the system employs nearly 9,500 people, supports the practices of 2,200 attending physicians, and provides the clinical training for more than 5,000 medical residents, fellows and providers. Harris Health is the largest training center for doctors in Texas and has received multiple awards for its quality care. Most importantly, it is a beloved institution by its patients, ranking in the top 5% of all hospitals according to national NRC patient satisfaction survey scores for 2022.

We owe it to our patients, providers and partners to demand more than just the minimum of healthcare access, and to build a Harris Health that can grow and respond to the ever expanding population. Our community needs us to invest more, not less, in preventive care services and additional cancer screenings, and to invest in new infrastructure and staff to reduce the wait time for all services and specialties. This must be the priority.

Our patients and our community deserve the best care, and we are counting on our local officials to deliver the support essential to meeting these needs.

Yes, it's important to manage tax resources wisely. But what is the point of being safe if you do not possess good health? What is the point of receiving mental health support if it requires a trip to the county jail? What is the point of paying taxes if the resources are not there to support your well-being?

Year after year, despite clear evidence of the detrimental impact it has on the stability of our public hospital system, and our flood control, law enforcement and other county departments, Harris County's tax support falls short of what is needed to do more of what we should.

The difference between adopting a no new revenue rate and the voter approved rate means $230 million in lost opportunity to improve our community's health.

The time has come for Harris County to prioritize its investment in people and the services essential to being a healthy community. We urge you to support the voter approved rate and invest in the health of our community's most vulnerable. 

Arthur W. Bracey, MD
Chair, Harris Health System Board of Trustees