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The Two Sides Of The El Paso Children’s Hospital

In recent court filings, the El Paso Children’s Hospital is arguing both that it is a public entity immune from lawsuits but also not a public entity subject to open records requests.

In the Hensley malpractice case, the plaintiffs have alleged that the negligence of doctors Steven Ross and Rodolfo Fierro-Stevens caused a “suspected” stroke in a child at El Paso Children’s Hospital on December 13, 2017. In addition to the doctors, the suit alleges that the children’s hospital lacked a pediatric neurologist on-call, breaching “the standard of care” by the hospital because it did not have “proper physicians” during overnight operations. [1]

As El Paso Politics has reported previously, the children’s hospital is facing several lawsuits alleging malpractice where children have died or have been injured. We have also reported extensively about how the El Paso Children’s Hospital argues that it is not a taxpayer entity subject the open records although it is fully owned by the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC), a taxpayer funded hospital, while in court cases it argues it is immune from lawsuits because it is a governmental entity.

In its Hensley defense, the children’s hospital argues that it has “immunity” from lawsuits because it is a “hospital district management contractor.” [2] The argument, in essence, is that the children’s hospital is a governmental entity because it is a contractor for UMC, a governmental entity. However, in denying our open records requests, the children’s hospital is arguing that it is not a governmental entity subject to the Texas Public Information Act.

However the more important issue facing the hospital, is who is ultimately responsible for the quality of care the hospital provides?

Who Is Ultimately Responsible At Children’s?

In the Hensley case, the plaintiffs requested that they be allowed to question Cindy Stout, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the children’s hospital. The lawyers for the hospital argued that Stout should not be questioned by the family’s lawyers. To support their argument, they submitted an affidavit by Cindy Stout signed on June 18, 2021. [1]

Stout said in her affidavit that “due to my many work responsibilities, busy travel schedule, and work commitments which require the utmost attention for the welfare of the Hospital, requiring my deposition in this matter poses a significant hardship and undue burden” on her. (emphasis added) [1]

The hospital’s CEO also stated on her affidavit that her knowledge of the malpractice lawsuit “is limited to only the most basic facts,” and that she has “no personal knowledge of the medical care and attention” that was provided to the child under the hospital’s care. [1]

As CEO, Cindy Stout is responsible for the management of the hospital. The hospital’s revenues are patient care. Among its expenses are lawsuits for the lack of proper medical care. The El Paso Children’s Hospital is currently facing several malpractice lawsuits alleging failure to provide proper medical care. The hospital is owned by the taxpayers of the community and it has faced several financial difficulties since it opened its doors in 2012, including filing for bankruptcy in 2015.

As such, it is reasonable to assume that the hospital’s CEO would be asking about the potential liabilities of the hospital due to the pending lawsuits and the quality of care being provided by the hospital to the children.

It should also be noted that the El Paso Children’s Hospital Chief Financial Officer, Melissa Campos and the Human Resources Director, Marina Estrada resigned earlier this month. Neither would explain the reasons for their departures. Additionally, the Joint Commission also visited the hospital and there are at least two ongoing open investigations of the hospital’s operations by regulatory agencies in addition to several malpractice lawsuits.

This continues to be a developing story and El Paso Politics will continue to report on it as more information becomes available.

Footnotes:

  1. Kevin Hensley at al. v. Steven Ross et al. (2019DCV2190), “Plaintiffs’ Response To Defendant El Paso Children’s Hospital’s Motion For Protection Concerning The Deposition of Cindy Stout,” 346th Judicial District Court, El Paso County, Texas, June 18, 2021.
  2. Kevin Hensley at al. v. Steven Ross et al. (2019DCV2190), “Plaintiffs’ Response To Defendant El Paso Children’s Hospital’s Motion For Protection Concerning The Deposition of Cindy Stout,” 346th Judicial District Court, El Paso County, Texas, July 7, 2021.

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