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Doctor upset UMC will spend $175,000 on CEO search

University Medical Center’s board of directors has approved $175,000 to hire a search firm to find a new CEO.

But a prominent El Paso doctor says they are throwing away taxpayer money, because they’ve already got the right guy.

That doctor is local internist Hani Annabi. And that right guy he’s talking about is current UMC CEO Jim Valenti, who is expected to step down in May, but Annabi wants him to stay.

“We have a CEO who has proven himself time and time again and brought this hospital from the verge of bankruptcy,” Dr. Annabi told ABC-7, “to a first class hospital. Three years in a row, we were voted the best hospital on the border. If you have a man with a proven record like that, why on earth would you want to replace him?”

Dr. Annabi isn’t the only one who wants Valenti to stay. Radio ads, paid for by a group calling itself Viva Valenti, began running late last year.

Annabi says Valenti, who has been at UMC 11 years, has indicated he will stay as long as he’s needed.

“He got up (at a meeting) and he said, ‘If you want me to stay, I will stay,'” Annabi said. “And he wants to stay.”

Annabi and other doctors spoke out in support of Valenti at a UMC special meeting in November. But Valenti also has many vocal detractors. Commissioners Court accused him of misleading them and doctors at the Children’s Hospital said they don’t trust him.

“There’s not support for Mr. Valenti at El Paso Children’s,” EPCH’s Dr. Aaron Ross told ABC-7 in July. “That’s just a fact.”

UMC board chair Steve DeGroat told ABC-7 Witt/Kieffer of Chicago will perform the search for $175,000. As for saving the money and Valenti staying, DeGroat said: “He did not request an extension. I think it’s time for a change. I’ve told Dr. Annabi, we did pretty good when we selected Jim Valenti and we hope to do as well or better this time.”

DeGroat said the cost of the search could reach as high as $200,000. By comparison, the County spent $23,000 in its search for a new County manager and the last City manager search cost $24,000.

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