By now most readers are aware of the pending $345 million of non-voter approved bonds that the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) asked for last week at county commissioners court. As David Gonzalez of KVIA reported on June 15, 2022 the issue is not just about the amount of taxpayer funds, but on the lack of transparency by UMC officials about it. The process by which UMC officials went about lacks transparency for the voters. It is a pattern of subterfuge that UMC engages in to keep the voters in the dark. In at least one recent case, the lack of transparency is not simply about taxpayer funds but in how UMC is actively hiding important public information about the welfare and care of the patients it serves.
In the case of the certificates of obligation (COs) that the hospital wants to issue, the public first became aware of it due to our reporting last week, the day after the UMC Board of Managers unanimously voted to take the measure to county commissioners. County commissioners were set to vote on the legal requirement of posting the notice in the newspaper before they or the voters knew the amount of the proposed certificates of obligations.
Both the UMC Board of Managers and the county commissioners’ agenda items did not have any supporting documents detailing the need for the tax monies nor the amount of the request. The initial amount was $400 million which included “padding” should a county commissioner ask about a clinic for their constituency as it was explained to the commissioners by UMC officials at the June 16, 2022, meeting. That UMC felt the need to pad the request suggests that they understood that a needed vote from one or more commissioner may need to be attained by offering something to them for their vote – like a clinic.
It wasn’t until the news media became interested in the request for the $400 million the night before the county commissioners were set to vote on the measure that UMC officials added a presentation about the request to the county commissioners’ agenda and disclosed that the amount of the non-voter approved bonds would be $345 million, instead of the padded $400 million.
The $345 million is divided into $175.6 million for UMC and its clinics, $36.7 million for the children’s hospital and another $54.4 million for “property and land acquisition”. County commissioners are set to vote on UMC’s request next Monday. It is the request for the children’s hospital that exposes how UMC officials keep inconvenient information away from the voters. Although El Paso Children’s Hospital argues that it is a stand-alone non-profit, both UMC’s request for funds for the children’s hospital and the hospital’s bylaws show that the children’s hospital is owned by UMC and by extension, El Paso’s taxpayers.
The Death Of The Three-Year-Old
On August 10, 2020, David Saucedo and his wife filed a malpractice lawsuit against El Paso Children’s Hospital and the doctors who were attending to their three-year-old child that died at the children’s hospital on August 31, 2019. Although readers should rightfully consider that sometimes tragedy happens, they should take a moment to read the tragic events of that day to understand what it means for how El Paso Children’s Hospital decides on how it treats its patients.
The issue is not simply about litigation and the steps taken to protect the interests of each litigant. American jurisprudence is – by its nature – adversarial with each side representing facts that suits them best.
El Paso Children’s Hospital Needs Money At The Expense of Caring For Patients
There exists a document that exposes the fact that the children’s hospital decides on patient care based on the money it needs for the children’s hospital and not what benefits the patient’s care. The document is hidden from view because El Paso Children’s Hospital lawyers convinced a judge to issue the unprecedented order to make changes to an official public record that had already been filed in court and to seal the document that exposes the need for money and why it likely led to the death of the three-year-old child.
It may be easy to dismiss as hearsay that the children’s hospital makes decisions based on money instead of patient care, especially when lawyers and public relations professionals spin the narrative for El Pasoans. The so-called Thomas Mayes Affidavit is so explosive that lawyers for El Paso Children’s Hospital spent about a year in court convincing a judge to seal the document. Because the document was already in the public realm, the children’s hospital had to figure out a way to seal the document because it had never been done in court before. Sealing the document was so problematic that the court spent months trying to figure out how to seal it. The court issued its order to seal the document in February of this year, after spending almost a year litigating how to seal the document.
Why is the document so important to seal?
The Mayes Affidavit clearly outlines a case where El Paso Children’s Hospital officials decided to contract a doctor that was unqualified under their own rules to provide medical services to children at the hospital because the hospital needed his patients to fund operations.
Who is Thomas C. Mayes?
Mayes is a medical doctor who was practicing medicine at El Paso Children’s Hospital. Not only was Mayes practicing medicine at the children’s hospital, but his job was to review new doctors that wanted to provide services to child patients there. It was Mayes job to ensure that the doctors who served the children were properly licensed and trained to do so.
What did Mayes say that was so critical that it required the children’s hospital to attempt to hide the document?
Mayes wrote in an affidavit attached to the Saucedo lawsuit that said that the doctor who treated the three-year-old girl “presents a real danger to his patients and should be removed from the practice of medicine.”
This is not a doctor complaining about the quality of work of another doctor simply because there is animosity between the two, or because they were competing for patient revenues. Mayes’s job was to ascertain if the doctor was qualified to practice medicine at the children’s hospital. Mayes not only determined that the doctor was unqualified but was also a “danger to his patients.”
Readers should note that Mayes wrote this in an affidavit under oath attesting to the truthfulness of his words. This is not hearsay. These are the facts.
Why are children’s lawyers so worried about the Mayes affidavit?
Lawyers for El Paso Children’s Hospital are so concerned about the Mayes affidavit that they spent months trying to convince the court that the document needed to be hidden from the public’s view. After they convinced the judge, they had to figure out a way to remove the document from the public view because it was so unprecedented.
What are they so afraid of?
If it was simply an issue of an incompetent doctor or a mistake the issue would be to mitigate the damage and the children’s hospital lawyers would not have spent so much of the court’s time or legal resources to remove it because they would ultimately simply blame the doctors involved. But the children’s hospital lawyers’ concerns were not the incompetent doctor but the reason that El Paso Children’s Hospital officials contracted the doctor in the first place. It was money. Mayes lays this out succinctly in his affidavit.
In his affidavit, Mayes wrote that the doctor in question was hired even though he did not meet the requirements to practice at the children’s hospital because the doctor “would continue to generate significant patient volume and revenue” to the children’s hospital. Prior to the doctor’s arrival, the children’s hospital “annually lost money.” Officials at UMC-owned El Paso Children’s Hospital put an unqualified doctor to work because they needed the money.
The Mayes Affidavit is not the only evidence that lays out the problems at the children’s hospital. There are other lawsuits and documents exposing the problems. We have reported on many of them, including other children who have been hurt at the children’s hospital.
Readers may be tempted to suggest that our publishing the Mayes affidavit violates the court order. It should be noted by readers that we first published the Mayes affidavit shortly after the Saucedo’s filed their lawsuit. The document was attached to their court filings. As a court filing, the document was a public record and open to public scrutiny. As we had published the original document prior to a court order and because we have not been directed by any court not to publish it, we feel that the document belongs in the public realm as a court document that is not only important to the community but to the legal and medical professions as well.
However, because of the February court order, if someone tries to access the document, they will find that it is filed under seal and not open to public scrutiny. The most significant question the taxpayers should be asking themselves is why would the children’s hospital, owned by UMC, feel the need to keep the taxpayers in the dark about the hospital’s operations? Not only was the children’s hospital built with taxpayer funds, but it is also now asking for another $36.7 million of taxpayer funds through non-voter approved bonds as part of UMC’s $345.7 million bond request. County commissioners are expected to vote on taking the next step next Monday on the request.
The fact that lawyers for El Paso Children’s Hospital successfully convinced a judge to seal an important document that the taxpayers of the community should be able to scrutinize is further proof that UMC will seek to hide any inconvenient information from the taxpayers who fund their operations.