These are just some of the traits that Bob Romero brings to the table as the newest member of the Hospital Board of Directors. He and his wife, Nicole, live on 22 acres purchased by his grandfather in the northeastern corner of Vermilion Parish. They met at Father Teurlings High School in Lafayette, where he said Sister Mary Angelle often admonished he and Nicole for spending too much time together. Not to be deterred, the two dated the four years through high school and have been married - to each other - for the past 43 years.
Romero became a nurse at a time when gender was associated more with the job performed. “I have always believe that it’s the care given to a patient no matter who is performing the work. I’ve had women patients request me over female nurses because, as a patient, they can sense when a person is truly empathetic in the work that they do.”
While male nurses are openly accepted in today’s workforce, he was a nurse trained as a Green Beret, a paratrooper “with 29 jumps out of perfectly good airplanes”, and time served with the 7th Special Forces stationed around the Iron Curtain countries of Cold War Europe. Romero emphasized that the military helped him to gain his access to medical training.
To the Hospital Board, and the people of Vermilion Parish, he brings in an ethic “to always be prepared to ask questions after reviewing the agenda for that meeting. The hospital has to be able to pay it’s own way,” said Romero. “It has two unique jobs in service to our community: the emergency room and rural health care. We have to be able to provide the life support service someone needs for heart problems or an oil field worker being flown in from off shore with an injury. We also have to be able to take care of a farmer whose tractor collapsed on top of him or some one with the flu.”
“Like any other business, our facility has to operate in both directions for the business and it’s employees,” continued Romero. “We have to have a place that will attract qualified personnel and we have to be able to offer them a place they are happy and proud to show up to work every day. We have a wonderfully new Rural Healthcare facility in Maurice that people compliment every day from the patients to the employees regarding the decor and the equipment to work with. It is up to all of us to maintain it, and shame on us if we don’t.”
“However, we also have a hospital that received roof damage from a hurricane even before Hurricane Rita. We’re still waiting on that money from FEMA for those roof repairs.”
As quickly as Romero has acclimated himself on the problems of the physical and financial nature of the hospital, he is adamant in his belief that the hospital and it’s employees are there to serve. This “service” is what brings his passion about medicine out in front. He firmly believes that the service provided isn’t simply connected to the medical staff, but carries through to every department in the hospital.
“When you leave the hospital as a patient, there is a questionairre that covers every section of the facility. And if a patient doesn’t fill it out and return it, we can never know what needs attention most. I don’t care if it’s the white beans that aren’t cooked properly, we need to know. And that’s from a doctor as much as a patient. We need them all to be happy with all of our services,” Romero remarked.
His nomination to the Hospital Board came from Police Juror Nathan Granger after the July sales tax election had been passed by the voters of Vermilion Parish. He said he listened to both sides of the arguments for and against but couldn’t understand why some people didn’t see the need for the emergency room and it’s needed upgrades in the community. The point he emphasized was that without the hospital, the nearest medical services for the 50,000 residents of mostly rural Vermilion Parish were either in New Iberia or Lafayette. However, he also emphasized that it’s not about loosing business to the other facilities; he believes a patient needs to be where they can get the best care possible.
Romero talked about the need to look at the process of how things are done in the emergency room and what can be done to improve services. “The average stay in the ER is two hours at Abbeville General; it’s four hours in Lafayette. No one likes to wait two hours - or 20 minutes,” said Romero. “We have to look at a model of how patients are handled when they come in those doors. It may mean adding a doctor, but it might also mean adding a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant instead to spread out who see’s someone complaining about chest pains to the person with the flu.”
“There is also more of a need to serve the community through the Rural Health Care offices as well. The office helps to establish a patient with a doctor who gets to know you through time. It’s also less expensive for the patient to see the doctor outside of the emergency room. The offices in Abbeville and Maurice are showing how the Rural Health Care network helps provide the patient information needed by anyone on staff to better serve a patient. The facility for Erath and Delcambre is not a matter of if, but when. There are a few additional details on the construction to be included because of the water level and potential to wind damage that Maurice doesn’t face,” said Romero.
Genuine enthusiasm about serving is evident when Romero talks about his work with the hospital board over the next six years of his term. “Each board member brings in their own sides of the story to work together. We have a doctor, a rancher, a farmer, a pharmacist, a home maker, a nurse and a retired general that all have different ideas but are all focused on what we can do to improve this hospital. Most folks don’t know that our business model of working with Medicare and Medicaide require us to accept everyone as a patient and not just those with insurance as do private, for-profit hospitals. Sometimes we are working up to 18 months in the red waiting to be reimbursed by the government for the services we provide. USDA controls most of the funding for rural health care facilities.”
“I wish I had a magic wand I could wave to turn this facility into a beautiful thing on a hill, gleaming in the sunlight. This hospital will not be turned into a nursing home. It will take some time for the (sales tax) money to come in to know what we can work with and what we need is for people to remember is that, as a community, they own this hospital. It’s governed by the board and under the Police Jury of Vermilion Parish. The doctors in medicine today aren’t in it so much for the money, especially when you look at the debt load they come out of school with nowadays. And, like teachers, police and firemen, nurses are among some of the lowest pay scales in the community,” said Romero.
Concluding, Romero said that he’s been involved in health care all of his life. While he doesn’t consider himself to be political in nature, he did say he reads a couple of news papers each day including the editorial and op-ed pages.
He said “my job is to stop the bleeding; calculate the dose; and show the patient you have the passion to get them through their treatment.”