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U.S. Bankruptcy Court confirms UMC / EPCH Plan; Both side share statements

After many months of litigation and a filing for bankruptcy protection by El Paso Children’s Hospital (EPCH), U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Christopher Mott today confirmed a plan that will result in a new affiliation with University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC), will bring about the emergence of EPCH from bankruptcy.

“This is a tremendous victory for all of the families in El Paso who were concerned that the vision of voters to have a first-rate Children’s Hospital in El Paso would disappear forever,” said Steve DeGroat, UMC Board of Managers Chair.

DeGroat continued, “Many people, from our legal team to board members to hospital administration and staff, put in countless hours yet never lost hope that we would be able to rescue Children’s Hospital from its financial tailspin. The plan we agreed on is the foundation of a new era and relationship between our two hospitals.

“Today’s confirmation solidifies a willingness of both hospitals to do the right thing for our community,” he added.
 
As part of the plan, the UMC Board of Managers is responsible for nominating the majority of seats on the EPCH Board. This has already occurred and becomes official with today’s confirmation.  

In a press conference held this afternoon, EPCH Board Chair Rosemary Castillo issued the following statement:

“The Board of El Paso Children’s Hospital thinks it fitting for us to make a statement as we come to this juncture in the history of El Paso Children’s Hospital. 

In 2007, El Paso taxpayers passed a bond for a separately licensed and separately governed Children’s Hospital.  From the beginning, the Children’s Hospital board took to heart its responsibility of governance and to fulfill that taxpayer mandate. The Children’s Hospital board has always been dedicated wholly and entirely to the mission and vision of maintaining a separately licensed, separately governed Children’s hospital, and to the support of the clinical services and excellent care that is being provided by its dedicated medical staff and employees. 

When the hospital opened, we were optimistic about the future. We believed that UMC shared our goals to ensure a successful launch of the hospital, and we believed that UMC would honor its promises to not profit from El Paso Children’s Hospital. A true partnership with a shared vision would have allowed the parties to negotiate in good faith and to remedy the loss of Medicaid revenues when changes in reimbursements occurred. Unfortunately, this spirit of cooperation and shared goals with UMC was lost along the way. 

Bankruptcy was this Board’s last resort. We sincerely believe that the financial dispute could have and should have been resolved early on, and we made every attempt to do so. It is unfortunate that those who had the ability to cure it, did not.  After unsuccessful mediations, protection within the bankruptcy court became the only option to correct our debts and to restructure our financial obligations. We knew this process wasn’t going to be easy, but it was the right thing to do. 

As a board we made a commitment to the families and patients that we serve, our staff, and our physicians, that the Children’s Hospital would continue to maintain its high quality of care and remain a place of hope and healing for the sick and injured children. We committed to emerging from this process by the end of the year, and that our financial obligations would be corrected and rightsized as a result of bankruptcy. 

We have delivered on each of these commitments. 

EPCH, UMC, and El Paso County Commissioners reached a compromise for El Paso, the taxpayers, and our children. Today, the Federal Court approved the confirmation of the Joint Plan, allowing the Children’s Hospital to exit bankruptcy and start anew. We challenge our community to hold UMC and the El Paso County Commissioners Court accountable to protect what the voters approved in 2007. 

On January 8, 2016, El Paso Children’s Hospital begins a new chapter and will have a new partnership with UMC.  Both hospitals need to work more closely together, and make the best use of shared resources, while keeping intact a separately-licensed hospital that continues to provide excellent pediatric healthcare. 

The new Board Members will take the helm of an excellent children’s hospital that has been a source of pride in this community. They will have the honor and privilege of overseeing a children’s hospital that saves lives, a children’s hospital that helps children heal and live normal lives, and they will hear countless stories of families who benefit from having this Children’s Hospital in the borderplex.   

They will assume the responsibility of a hospital that is home to highly-skilled, caring physicians and nurses who function in a first-rate medical center dedicated “exclusively” to children.  A hospital that has reduced outmigration of infants and children by 80%, when going out of town was the only option before we opened. 

A hospital that is an Institutional Member of the Children’s Oncology Group. A children’s hospital that has adopted numerous protocols for hard to treat and resistant cancers, as are available at facilities such as St. Jude’s, and M. D. Anderson and Sloan Kettering. The only children’s hospital in the borderplex that has achieved this distinction. They will meet all of the excellent neonatal and pediatric subspecialists caring and treating our children.  They will appreciate that seven of our physicians have been recognized as Best Doctors in America®, and that only five percent of doctors in America earn this prestigious honor. 

They will witness the care that is first in class, as evidenced by national quality standards. They will know that the hospital that they are serving to protect has been cited for Excellence by the Joint Commission, has been granted Institutional Membership by the Children’s Oncology Group, has been accredited in MRI by the American College of Radiology, has been accredited by the College of American Pathologists, and has earned the Quality Respiratory Care Recognition by the American Association for Respiratory Care. 

We have no doubt, the new Children’s Hospital board will embrace what we have been working so hard to protect. We recognize the new board has a big responsibility to implement what was agreed to by all parties in the Joint Plan, and to continue to grow programs and services offered by El Paso Children’s Hospital, where miracles happen every day. 

From its inception, El Paso Children’s Hospital has faced tremendous adversity and throughout that time we have seen the emergence of strong leaders in support of EPCH. I want to thank the current and former El Paso Children’s Hospital Board members for their tireless and voluntary dedication to protecting the independent operation of the children’s hospital. 

We thank the countless supporters we have had throughout this process.  Thank you to our courageous Medical Staff and the community pediatricians, who despite personal and professional risk defended the mission of the El Paso Children’s Hospital in the press and in federal court. They spoke with great conviction and stated the things that only they could say about the future of El Paso’s only dedicated Children’s Hospital. 

Thank you to our staff and employees for their commitment to quality and to the care of their patients. We are aware that you could have left Children’s Hospital, and perhaps El Paso, for certainty in your lives and profession, but you didn’t. Instead, you chose to stay and work to make El Paso Children’s Hospital what it is today. Thank you to the families who wrote letters of support asking how they could help. Thank you to the patients in our Hematology Extremely Awesome Teens program, who wanted to help.  Thank you to the children in our community who called and wanted to donate their piggy banks. You have all proven that even the smallest voice can make a large difference. 

Thank you to the many social media writers who emerged to correct the inaccurate reporting and biased stories portrayed by certain media outlets.  Thank you to the group of community members who formed to hold our elected leaders accountable. 

To all of you, our army of supporters, who stood behind us and supported us, thank you.  Because of you, El Paso Children’s Hospital and its mission continues. Now, we look to the future with a renewed sense of purpose and focus.”  

Author: University Medical Center/El Paso Children’s Hospital

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