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Top Starr County health official resigns, commissioners vote against pay raise

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STARR COUNTY, Texas (KVEO)— The health situation in Starr County is not doing well and now the county is left without their top medical leader.

Abruptly, former Starr County Health Authority, Dr. Jose Vasquez, who has held the position for more than a decade has resigned.

The reason? A pay raise increase gone terribly wrong.

“I don’t need the money, I would rather have my dignity,” said Dr. Vasquez, “I work seven days a week, 24/7 for county issues and at the same time I was taking care of my own medical practice as well as the hospital board duties.”

On top of Health Authority, Vasquez also served as President of the Starr County Memorial Hospital Board.

He was even diagnosed with COVID-19 after being exposed while treating patients.

With the work not stopping and the situation becoming so dire in Starr County that it gained national attention, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera thought Vasquez deserved a raise.

So, on Monday, Vera brought it to the attention of city commissioners to take action to get Dr. Vasquez a contract that would compensate him for his work on the COVID-19 frontlines.

“He was getting paid just a token amount of $500 a month. $500 a month is what he was getting, and he never complained,” said Judge Vera at the meeting. “He’s worked the last 7-8 months for that, and I don’t think it’s fair that we have our neighboring counties that pay their doctors more in the excess of $200,000 while ours gets $500.”

The money would not have increased taxes or even come from residents, instead the $10,000 proposed contract would have been paid for by the Federal CARES Act.

However, even with that explained, other council members disagreed.

“I move that we deny the contract at this point in time,” said Eloy Garza, County Commissioner.

Instead, Garza suggested Vasquez’s position should be given to another doctor who would hold it for free.

“He told me that he was willing to come and do this job, free of charge and if we have this money to spend we could use that money to provide medication for people that don’t have,” said Garza.

Garza told the other council members that he had spoken to another doctor Sunday afternoon and he would suggest to the commissioners that this other doctor would be willing to take the position.

“The commissioners court decided that to pay for my professional activities was not necessary,” said Dr. Vasquez. “Commissioner Eloy Garza said publicly that he had a private discussion with another local physician to see if he would take the job as the health authority.”

Immediately following the meeting, Vasquez resigned from the position.

He told the public in a Facebook Live Monday evening he held on his personal account, that he would miss working for and with the people of Starr County.

“I thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart, I have an enormous show of respect and gratitude from you all, you made this fight worth fighting,” said Vasquez. “I will not stop this fight, I will continue all my efforts to help and guide you in all your needs. To the commissioners, I challenge you why don’t you donate your salaries to COVID expenses to the county? Just live off the $500 you thought was a fair compensation for my work.”

In a statement Starr County posted to their Facebook account they said:

“Starr County Health Authority Dr. Jose Vazquez has resigned his current position as the county’s health authority, a position which he had been appointed to by the Commissioners’ Court. The resignation came after Starr County Commissioners voted against awarding Vazquez a contract which included compensation for his work. Vazquez has been providing guidance to the county and the community during the current Coronavirus Pandemic. An appointment of a new Health Authority should be forthcoming. We would like to thank Dr. Vazquez for his outstanding service to Starr County.”

A meeting is scheduled for Friday to see who the next health authority of Starr County will be.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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