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Mission selects medical director for EMS service

The Mission City Council on Monday hired a medical director to launch the city’s new EMS service.

Mayor Armando “Doc” O’caña and the City Council hired Dr. Ivan G. Melendez of Mission during a special meeting on Monday afternoon.

“My role will be to guide them in that process,” Melendez said.

After he graduated from medical school, Melendez trained at the Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, which is affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine.

During the past three decades, he worked at hospitals across Texas and throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Melendez also served as a field surgeon for the 36th Infantry in Iraq.

“In all those years, I’ve been blessed,” Melendez said, adding that he dealt extensively with ambulances, emergency rooms and trauma centers.

Melendez, though, is perhaps best known as the Hidalgo County health authority. He frequently participated in news conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Mission, he will be tasked with assisting the Mission Fire Department, which plans to provide EMS service.

The department will start with a single ambulance and work alongside Med-Care EMS, the privately owned ambulance company that responds to 911 calls in Mission.

Melendez will be paid $1,500 per month, according to documents reviewed by the City Council. Melendez requested an additional, one-time fee of $3,000 to review EMS protocols.

Four other doctors applied for the position.

State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco — a consultant for the city — recommended Dr. Javier Elias Cortinas of McAllen.

“He has a great history. Very involved in EMS,” said Martinez, who provides EMS consulting services to local governments. “He’s the ER director of DHR at the moment.”

Cortinas said he would charge $1,500 per month, according to documents reviewed by the City Council. He didn’t request an up-front fee to review EMS protocols.

Dr. Oscar B. Tijerina of Mission and Dr. Mario R. Anzaldua of Mission also expressed interest in the position.

Tijerina, the chairman of the city ambulance board, said “somewhere in the vicinity of $2,500.00 would be adequate,” according to documents reviewed by the City Council.

The City Council didn’t receive a resume or compensation information for Anzaldua.

The fourth doctor withdrew from the process, concerned about a conflict of interest.

“My recommendation would be Dr. Anzaldua,” O’caña said. “But that’s just my recommendation and I don’t know if I would even get a second.”

City Councilman Ruben Plata said he didn’t want to delay the decisionmaking process and couldn’t support Anzaldua without a resume or compensation information.

“He was just contacted a couple hours ago,” O’caña said.

City Councilwoman Jessica Ortega made a motion to select Melendez.

“I read his extensive resume and he had a wealth of experience,” Ortega said. “And he’s from Mission.”

The motion passed unanimously.

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