University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) announced today that it has not reached an agreement with El Paso Children’s Hospital (Children’s) on its most recent term sheet.
Children’s disagrees, writing in a statement, “El Paso Children’s Hospital met every deadline that the County Commissioners Court and UMC set forth and negotiated in good faith. El Paso Children’s Hospital accepted UMC’s Thursday offer based on their terms and deadlines.
“El Paso Children’s Hospital is stunned by the latest developments from UMC.”
Commissioners said they waited for hours, from 8:30 a.m., for Children’s to either accept or reject the offer. County Judge Veronica Escobar said at 11:58 a.m., just two minutes until the noon deadline, Children’s submitted another counter offer.
“They wanted more changes in the language,” said Commissioner David Stout. “And we didn’t want changes, we wanted a yes or no.”
Commissioners said UMC has gone as far as it could go during negotiations, without hurting the taxpayer.
“I think the concessions that we made were very generous,” Stout said.” We came very close but I think they wanted a little too much.”
UMC, however, says it welcomes Children’s assistance in the development of a joint plan to save Children’s.
UMC intends to submit a plan for consideration by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and its fellow creditors.
Both the UMC Board of Managers and El Paso County Commissioners Court met and conferred for several hours today.
Children’s was given three separate deadlines to accept UMC’s term sheet but each of those deadlines passed without acceptance of the initial term sheet from UMC. Children’s responded to each deadline with a counter offer.
UMC said in a statement that it cannot allow the issue to continue to exhaust taxpayer dollars and consume precious resources that should be dedicated to care of El Paso’s families.
“We have gone as far as we can go in our efforts to reach a resolution with Children’s Hospital,” said James N. Valenti, President & CEO of UMC. “We want to bring this bankruptcy to closure, and we remain resolute in our determination to ensure the vision of El Paso to have a Children’s Hospital is available to all. We intend to protect the mission and vision and the successful operation of the Children’s Hospital for years to come.”
“We still have litigation ahead and a plan to submit to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court that we intend to present in the coming weeks,” he added.
Children’s released a statement that contradicts UMC’s statements.
“El Paso Children’s Hospital is stunned by this development because we accepted the terms of their Thursday offer by their deadline. Therefore,
El Paso Children’s Hospital believes any statement to the contrary is not accurate,” Children’s said in a statement released Monday afternoon.
UMC says it will continue to have a dialogue with County Commissioners and all interested organizations that can provide assistance toward saving the Children’s Hospital and the exceptional services it provides.
UMC and Children’s officials will be in Austin on Tuesday, Sept. 29 for Children’s next federal bankruptcy hearing.
UMC has filed court docuements asking Judge H. Christopher Mott to allow UMC to present its plan to save Children’s.
Children’s responded to UMC’s final offer by 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 25 and UMC’s attorneys reviewed the response.
County Judge Veronica Escobar told ABC-7 Friday that Children’s responded with another counter offer to UMC. Escobar said on Friday that the offer was optimistic enough to look over this past weekend and discuss Monday at a special Commissioners Court meeting.
“We really are going above and beyond trying to find common ground in order to help them (Children’s) seek a strategic partner. We’re trying to help save it (the hospital). That’s the whole point of the work.” Escobar said in an interview on Thursday, Sept. 24 after Commissioners and UMC sent Children’s the offer.
The terms of the offer are confidential but Escobar said the negotiations hinged on one issue. She added UMC had met Children’s concessions “more than halfway.”
If Children’s accepted that offer from UMC, it would have paused its lawsuit against UMC and looked for a partner to infuse money into the cash strapped hospital. UMC would simultaneously work with Children’s on a backup plan in case Children’s couldn’t solidify a deal with another partner.
“We would love Children’s to remain independent. In fact we have done everything possible both the county and UMC to support them. We would love to give them the tools and the ability to keep them independent from UMC. We’d rather not have them under the UMC wing,” said Escobar.
She added UMC would only want to take over Children’s if it meant that was the only option to keep the hospital open.
UMC has submitted court documents asking bankruptcy Mott to allow UMC to present its plan to save Children’s. Escobar said in court, the odds are against Children’s.
“The facts are the facts. Conspiracy theories in a federal courtroom mean nothing. It comes down to the facts,” Escobar said. “What is true and what is not true is the only thing that matters.”
County officials have said Children’s was more accessible this time around.
“This is the closest we’ve been since all of this started. It showed a definite change in the way they’re negotiating,” Stout told ABC-7 last week.
Children’s CEO Mark Herbers sent out a statement last week saying they were confident Children’s response would be met with approval from UMC.