The Travis County Commissioners Court during its Sept. 29 meeting approved Central Health’s $295 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16 as well as the health district's annual tax rate.

The vote was 4-0-1, with Precinct 1 Commissioner Ron Davis abstaining.

The FY 2015-16 budget for Central Health, Travis County’s health care district, totals $295.8 million, and its new tax rate is 11.7781 cents per $100 of valuation.

During the budget presentation, Central Health President and CEO Patricia Young Brown said Central Health continues to move away from directly purchasing services and toward the role of a “steward of funds" in key areas. She cited efforts to build up the health care provider pipeline for the new Dell Medical School as an example.

“Health care is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “It is a chaotic industry right now.”

Major priorities outlined in the budget include completion of Phase II of the Central Health Southeast Health and Wellness Center and redevelopment of the University Medical Center Brackenridge campus. Other priorities include health delivery programs provided by the nonprofit Community Care Collaborative, which was formed by Central Health and Seton Healthcare Family.

Feedback on the budget

A few Travis County residents spoke during a public comment period before the budget was passed.

Resident Tim Zapata said he has had to wait for long periods to see a neurologist, and he believes it should not be acceptable to have to wait for a year to see a specialist or specialty doctor. Zapata asked the commissioners to hold Central Health accountable in its proposed budget to pay more for specialty care.

Commissioner Margaret Gomez said that speaker is not alone.

“We have had other people come here just to tell us during citizens communication that the waiting period for them to get care is just really, really long,” she said, adding she understands plans are in place to train more staff for the future, but the county must also provide care for patients today. “I’m willing to approve the budget but with the understanding that there are a lot of issues that are still outstanding issues.”

Young said Central Health must focus on a “fix” for how it provides not only specialty care but also primary care and other types of services.

“It is not going to change overnight,” she said.