Government

Texas Attorney General “Looking Into” Children’s Hospital

On May 28, 2021, El Paso Politics received the following message from the Texas Attorney General’s Office about our quest to force the El Paso Children’s Hospital to comply with the Texas Public Information Act. According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, they are “looking into this issue with the El Paso Children’s Hospital and is preparing to send a letter to the hospital to see what is going on” with their refusal to respond to our open records request.

In April, El Paso Politics filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office asking them to determine whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital is subject to the Texas Public Information Act. We also asked the County Attorney’s office to request an opinion from the Attorney General’s office to determine whether the children’s hospital must comply with open records requests.

Jo Anne Bernal declined our request for her office to intervene on behalf of El Paso’s taxpayers on May 7. Her office cited Fallon v. MD Anderson Physicians as the reason for declining our request. In response, we asked her office to reconsider her decision on May 10, citing what we believe are important distinctions in the Fallon case with El Paso Children’s Hospital.

On May 10, the Texas Attorney General’s office sent a letter to the El Paso Children’s Hospital to provide their office with additional information “within 10 business days.”

On May 19, 2021, Jo Anne Bernal responded to our request asking her office to reconsider their decision with a letter from Jo Anne Bernal that states, “I decline to reconsider my decision.”

From the information we have received from the Texas Attorney General’s office, the El Paso Children’s Hospital has not answered the letter from the attorney general’s office.

They are now planning on following up with the children’s hospital as per the message we received to our query asking about the status of our complaint last Friday.

Elected Officials Fail To Respond

When El Paso Politics sought to determine whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital was subject to the state’s open records laws, we copied our correspondence to the county judge; Ricardo Samaniego and the county commissioners. The county attorney’s responses to us were also copied to their offices.

None have responded to the information provided to them about transparency in the operations of the El Paso Children’s Hospital.

When Jo Anne Bernal’s office declined our request a second time, we sent an email to Mayor Oscar Leeser and city representatives: Alexsandra Annello, Cassandra Hernandez, Cissy Lizarraga, Joe Molinar, Henry Rivera, Claudia Lizette Rodriguez, Isabel Salcido, and Peter Svarzbein.

Like the county judge and county commissioners, none of the city elected officials have responded to our request to intervene on behalf of the El Paso taxpayers.

Government Transparency

Currently, El Paso taxpayers are facing higher taxes due to rising property values while also facing diminished incomes due to the national pandemic emergency. Meanwhile, the El Paso Children’s Hospital is facing several lawsuits over the quality of care they provide and their taxpayer-funded revenues remain opaque.

In 2012, the children’s hospital opened its doors to the public with the promise to provide much needed quality pediatric care for El Paso’s children. Within three years, the children’s hospital filed for bankruptcy owing millions of dollars to El Paso’s taxpayers. The children’s hospital emerged out of bankruptcy owned by El Paso’s taxpayers through the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC).

UMC routinely responds to public information requests while the El Paso Children’s Hospital refuses to comply with the Texas Public Information Act. El Paso elected officials seem to not be interested in asking the children’s hospital be transparent to the taxpayers of the community.

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