On Monday, January 27, 2015, the El Paso County Commissioners Court approved the University Medical Center’s (UMC) annual audit. This is according to various news sources. There is one word in that factual statement I would like you to focus on – approved. Approved signifies the authority over something. In the context of this issue, a political authority, the county commissioners approved the financial statements of its subordinate, the hospital district.
Clearly, the County Commissioners Court has authority over the finances of UMC. This is one of those inconvenient facts being glossed over by Veronica Escobar and cohorts. For those that still question the notion that the county commissioners has authority over the UMC finances, let me point you to what one county commissioner was quoted as stating.
According to Aileen Flores at the El Paso Times, Andrew Haggerty stated, “We are losing money everyday because we aren’t getting any money – how do we stop that?” Flores points out that the county commissioners took two weeks to review the audit before approving it. Haggerty asks how do they stop the financial hemorrhaging. He did not ask how does UMC stop the financial loses. In other words, it should be the county commissioners looking for the solution, not UMC.
The local paper then reports that UMC Chief Financial Officer Michael Nuñez told the commissioners that the hospital district is losing about $33,000 per day, not including rent that the El Paso Children’s Hospital was supposed to be paying. The daily loss is for tangible services like salaries, food and supplies.
In March, last year, the public became aware that the El Paso Children’s Hospital was behind on its payments to UMC. This is when the politicos reluctantly acknowledged that a problem had been brewing since at least 2012. The politicos knew this because on December 2013, UMC gave El Paso Children’s Hospital more time to pay their rent via a contract amendment. However, let’s just focus on when the community became aware of the lack of payments. It has almost been a year since the taxpayers became aware. During that time, the politicos have been promising that through secret negotiations a solution would be forthcoming soon.
In almost 300 days of secret negotiations, the taxpayers have paid almost $10 million.
Let us pierce through the rhetoric. UMC officials tells the county commissioners that the children’s hospital is costing them $33,000 a day. In the last 300 days, county commissioners have known there is a problem.
How many of you would be allowed to keep your cell phone, Internet connection or car for 300 days without making a payment?
Just so we are all on the same page, the county commissioners have already acknowledged that they have oversight over the finances of UMC. They have also acknowledged they are aware of the lack of payments from El Paso Children’s Hospital.
In case, you are still not clear about that; let’s look a quote from Andrew Polk, of KVIA. He reported that the El Paso Children’s Hospital owes UMC another $30 million in rent, medical equipment and information technology. This is according to UMC officials. Polk quotes Andrew Haggerty as stating, “I would like to see us put something in motion to help make sure a resolution happens, if we have the authority to do that.”
As evidenced by the lack of response that I received for my open records request on Susie Byrd’s salary at the El Paso Children’s Hospital and the silence emanating from the county attorney’s office – the notion that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is a distinct and separate entity from the county; then I do not understand how the county commissioners are allowed by you, the taxpayers, to continue with the façade of secretly negotiating a solution.
You, the taxpayers, are who are paying the bills. It is you that the El Paso Children’s Hospital owes close to ten million dollars since the news broke about their financial travails. That ten million is not ambiguous rents owed for a building that was paid for by taxes. The ten million are hard cash being paid for services that the El Paso Children’s Hospital continues to use.
I ask you again, how many of you would be allowed to continue to use your cell phone or watch cable television if you have not paid your bill in the last 300 days?
Then why do you allow the county commissioners to pretend they can do nothing to save you money you cannot afford to spend?