EL PASO, Texas - Unversity Medical Center wants to expand by building four clinics throughout El Paso County. The price tag is a $162 million bond which the county commissioners will consider on Monday. But a wide sector of the community is pushing back against the idea.
The El Paso County Medical Society and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce together represent thousands of private physicians. Both groups conducted surveys about UMC's proposed expansion and both say the majority of the members oppose. They say it's a bad business plan for taxpayers to invest in.
Out of the $162 million dollars to build four University Medical Center clinics: UMC says the facilities, meant to serve the under and uninsured, will cut down on emergency room visits and save taxpayer money over time.
"Our stated goal in building these facilities is to provide access to 100,000 additional uninsured El Pasoans," said Margaret Althoff-Olivas, UMC director of public affairs. "I don't think that's the mission of the private practice physicians in town."
But the El Paso County Medical Society says the UMC plan is based on three pages of the Paso Del Norte Health Report and does not take into consideration what private physicians, Texas Tech and federally-funded clinics can contribute to El Paso's health needs. They believe that if UMC were to include the capabilities of private practice and Texas Tech facilities, the price tag could be cut.
"We feel that we could come up with a good public-private partnership to provide solutions," said Dr. Luis Urrea of the El Paso County Medical Society. "We know what the problems are and so, as a taxpayer we think it's an inappropriate way to throw money at the problem."
Former EPC Medical Society President Dr. John Tune says four additional clinics will hurt private practices by taking patients. Tune says these clinics are using taxpayer money to compete against private physicians --- and in effect could take business from its own tax base.
"The bottom line is it's getting to a point that where our profit margin is going way down," said Tune. "And it's going to be to a point where private practice and medicine is going to be overtaken by government medicine."
Ninety-two percent of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's membership said they'd vote against the expansion. They say the business plan leaves them guessing and they want more.
"Our business community has been pretty strong about voicing that in our statement, that we will probably be reading at the County Commissioners on Monday," said the chamber's CEO Cindy Ramos-Davidson.
The Canutillo School Board also passed a resolution to oppose the $162 million bond.