EL PASO, Texas - At an El Paso County Commissioners meeting on Monday, key University Medical Center leaders and their legal team discussed El Paso Children's Hospital's financial sustainability.
The meeting took place in executive session for nearly three hours. UMC CEO Jim Valenti offered a statement but declined questions. He said on Tuesday, El Paso Children's will receive a letter and proposal from UMC's board. Once it's delivered, UMC will reveal their ideas to the public.
"In the absence of a plan from Children's UMC has to present something," said County Judge Veronica Escobar. "We can't sit on our hands, we can't wait for something to materialize that hasn't."
"We all recognize, the commissioners court, and management, and the board, recognize there's significant struggles with the Children's Hospital," Valenti said. "We all know that for the past four-plus months."
Children's owes UMC nearly $70 million.That debt grows every month by $2.5 million. After four months of this coming to light, Children's has yet to present a plan of action.
"I am still hopeful but I think the window of opportunity is shrinking," Escobar said. "The options shrink with each passing week."
ABC-7 reached out to Children's to find out what is the status of their proposal. Their new media consultant Susie Byrd replied:
"The first phase of the board evaluation of staff recommendations began with an extended work session on May 27. The board will meet again June 17th to consider more options, just as UMC has done. When we present a plan it will be well researched and one which our board, our partner UMC and the public can have great confidence in."
"They know the urgency, but my hope is they've been burning the candle at both ends to come up with that plan," Escobar said.
Escobar said solutions include increasing volume, cutting costs, and applying for state and federal funding opportunities. While she affirms, a taxpayer bailout is not on the table, she fears the worst.
"The worst case scenario is that we don't have a stand alone Children's Hospital. And that would have negative consequences for El Paso families," Escobar said.
"El Paso is a community that desperately needs the children's services the Children's Hospital has provided over the last two years," Valenti said. "So we want to preserve the Children's Hospital. Those are the limits of my prepared remarks, and stay tuned."
Valenti said the board chairs of both UMC and Children's will be negotiating UMC's proposal.