Children's Hospital spokeswoman accuses UMC CEO of sabotage

EL PASO, Texas - Accusations of "sabotage!"

That's the latest in the back and forth between University Medical Center and the financially-strapped El Paso Children's Hospital, which faces a $71 million dollar debt and the possibility of being shut down.

On Wednesday, ABC-7 spoke at length with El Paso Children's Hospital spokeswoman Susie Byrd about the situation. She said she believes UMC CEO Jim Valenti is deliberately trying to sabotage the Children's Hospital.

"What we need, what El Paso Children's Hospital needs, what the community needs, is for the UMC, and in particular Jim Valenti, to act as partners with Children's Hospital in resolving this problem, instead of deliberately sabotaging the hospital at every chance they get," Byrd said.

When asked how Valenti is sabotaging it, she responded: "(Tuesday) was a perfect example. The (UMC) board wrote a letter to Children's Hospital to (board chair) Sam Legate. It was essentially meant as a press release and it was essentially meant to undermine the credibility of the institution, the staffing, the financials and without really giving us an opportunity to engage in that and that's very unfortunate."

The letter stated UMC's legal team is sending a confidential proposal to Children's calling for a long-term solution for survival of the hospital. ABC-7 asked UMC why the proposal had to be secret and they responded with this statement: "The proposal was developed by our legal team and submitted directly to the attorneys for El Paso Children's Hospital so that the two sides' legal teams could begin negotiating the terms of a mutually agreed upon solution to the issues we face. Children's has until Monday to respond. I can assure the public whatever decisions UMC's board of managers ultimately make in relation to El Paso Children's Hospital will be made public. For now, though, we are following the recommended process by counsel."

Byrd said Children's is open to negotiating with UMC in good faith.

"I think that's something Children's hospital is certainly committed to making happen," Byrd said. "I know it's something the UMC board wants to happen. Whether Jim Valenti wants that to happen, I'm not sure."

ABC-7 did not hear from Valenti but UMC board chair William Hanson responded in a statement, calling Byrd's allegations "baseless."

"We have repeatedly asked El Paso Children's Hospital to provide us with a plan and to be up front about what they need from us," Hanson wrote. "They have failed to do so time after time. Instead they used the occasion to point fingers at UMC. The one partner who has the most to offer in terms of helping them survive in the future is the very partner that Ms. byrd seeks to malign. We fully support our CEO, Jim Valenti, in his leadership and service."

Hanson went on to call the allegation insulting, not only to Valenti, but the entire UMC board.

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