UMC Bleeding Money

Last year, instead of a loss of $16 million (as they projected), UMC actually ended the year with a $800,000 surplus and they doubled their cash reserves:”cash reserves doubled from what was originally budgeted — from $30 million to $60 million”! Amazingly enough, this information came out just as the UMC Board was deciding what Jim Valenti’s bonus was going to be.  They even raised his performance score so that he would be eligible for a larger bonus.

The news is not as cheery this year, according to UMC, they are looking at  a loss of $15.7 Million for the 2017 fiscal year:


If you look closely, you’ll see that El Paso First and the UMC Foundation are both projecting net positives and it’s the positives from them that are pushing the NEGATIVE from UMC down from $22.1 million to $15.79 million.

So, what has happened?  Did UMC and its CEO paint a more rosy picture so that Jim Valenti would be eligible for a bigger bonus in 2015 and then kick the problem to 2016 for the new CEO to handle?  No doubt, UMC will try some creative ways to make up the deficit.  But, we find it hard to believe that anything other than a property tax increase will cover the projected $15.79 million loss.



UMC Selects New CEO – Goodbye, Jim Valenti

The UMC Board today announced their new CEO:  Jacob Cintron (formerly CEO of Del Sol Medical Center).  The El Paso Inc Whispers over the weekend stated that Jim Valenti had been asked to stay on through September.  However, the press release states that Cintron will begin his new job at UMC on July 25, 2016, so we find it unlikely that Valenti will be around much longer.

We wonder how the dynamic at UMC (and also the dynamic between UMC and the County Commissioner’s Court) is going to change – only time will tell.


Change In the Wind for UMC

Two interesting things happened at the end of last week and you may have missed them.  First, Jim Valenti’s weekly Friday letter had the tone of someone who is saying goodbye. Is it possible that we’ll get an announcement on a new UMC CEO soon?  If Steve DeGroat (UMC Chair) is to be believed in the El Paso Times Story, “He’ll stay some days of the month of June — whether that’s a week, or two, or three or four. But I would say no longer than July 1.”

Secondly, Commissioner Stout wrote an opinion piece in the El Paso Times entitled “Building Relationships key for UMC“.  In his piece he says “I urge the new CEO to spend time rebuilding relationships with key community partners and the Commissioners Court that have been stressed.” We agree, the new CEO (with his board of directors) needs to rebuild old and establish new relationships.  Odd that Commissioner Stout felt it was important to run an opinion piece in the El Paso Times rather than just saying these things directly to the new CEO.  Commissioner Stout is on the search committee for the new CEO so he would not only know who the person is but also would have the opportunity to speak with them. Is Commissioner Stout worried about the new CEO already and he is trying to publicly put pressure on them?

Waiting for the announcement for the new CEO is starting to feel like waiting for the birth of a baby; everybody knows that it is coming but nobody knows when.  So, start marking up your calendars or just shout out the date you think the announcement will be made.

Tick Tock – Jim Valenti’s Clock is Running Down

The UMC Board met yesterday in Executive Session to discuss their new CEO.  While UMC says they won’t release any details about who they have interviewed or to whom they might offer the job, they have said that they are three to four weeks out.  According to the El Paso Times, UMC Board Chairman Steve DeGroat said, “I think we should have somebody on board by July 1.”  Additionally, DeGroat stated that Jim Valenti’s last day is expected to be sometime in June:  “He’ll stay some days of the month of June — whether that’s a week, or two, or three or four. But I would say no longer than July 1.”

If UMC is expecting their new CEO to start in July and Jim Valenti is expected to leave in June, so much for the contract extension to “be used in case the former CEO needs to mentor the new leader and help in the transition process.” (You can read the El Paso Times Story here).  Given that the “hospital district will send Valenti a letter notifying him about his last day on the job. The letter will be sent 30 days in advance,” they must already know when his last day will be (and have already told him) and are just not releasing that information.

It would appear that Jim Valenti’s time at UMC is coming to a close.  We wonder what this “new era” for UMC is going to look like.

UMC Get’s A D and Claims Rating System is Flawed

The Leapfrog Group has published its quarterly scores and, like last year, UMC didn’t score very well.  It received a ‘D‘ rating with failures in areas such as infections in the blood during an ICU stay, death from serious treatable complications, dangerous bed sores and responsiveness of hospital staff, to name a few (you can view the entire report here).  UMC, of course is stating that the report is inaccurate and, according to KFOX, a spokesman for UMC stated that the “method the group uses to collect the data doesn’t paint a true picture of any hospital because it rates all different types of hospitals on the same scale.”  Several Senators have even written a letter stating that “the current Star Rating System may not accurately take into account hospitals that treat patients with low socioeconomic status or multiple complex chronic conditions” (You can read the entire letter here).  So, we decided to take a look at the other Texas County Hospitals that would be dealing with the same patient pools.  Here are the comparisons for County Hospitals in San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Austin:

University Health System, San Antonio:  C

Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas:  B

John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS), Fort Worth: C

Harris County Hospital District, Houston:  C

University Medical Center at Brackenridge, Austin: B

Even among other county hospitals in Texas, UMC still rates the LOWEST.  Are the scores skewed to rate hospitals lower that treat the indigent population?  Possibly.  However, unless the scores are skewed to attack ONLY University Medical Center of El Paso, then all County Hospitals in Texas are getting the same treatment and are still able to pull rating of C or higher.


How Does Valenti’s Pay Compare?

According to MySA (a San Antonio news outlet), the CEO of University Health System, George Hernandez Jr.,  was awarded a 7 percent increase.  This prompted the news outlet to do a comparison of wages for other county hospitals and UMC’s CEO Jim Valenti was included in that.  Interesting to note that both El Paso and Houston paid their CEO’s significantly less than Fort Worth, Dallas and San Antonio.  What does this mean for the future CEO of UMC?  Are we going to see a jump in the amount of money UMC pays their CEO?

El Paso Children’s Hospital Getting Its Own Foundation?

An interesting item on the UMC Board agenda last week:

UMC Board Agenda

You can read the full agenda here. Does this mean that they are FINALLY separating the UMC and El Paso Children’s Hospital Foundations?  If you recall, we addressed the fact that the EPCH Foundation and UMC Foundation were basically the same here.  Perhaps this is the first step in ensuring that the money that is donated to the El Paso Children’s Hospital STAYS with the El Paso Children’s Hospital.  Would you be more willing to donate to EPCH if you knew for sure that the money wasn’t going to UMC?

County Commissioners Looking For UMC Board Members

There are three open spots on the UMC Board that the County Commissioners are looking to fill.  Haggerty, who is looking for a replacement for Brothet Nick Gonzalez, is still accepting applications.  Stout, who will appoint a replacement for Monica Salaiz-Navarez, has said he has already made his decision and is awaiting confirmation from the individual.  Finally, Escobar, who will appoint someone to replace Tracy Yellen, is also accepting applications. 

Not happy with how the UMC board handled things?  Want a larger say in how your tax dollars are spent? Well, consider applying to be on the board!  Click here to access the application.

You can read the entire El Paso News story here.

Valenti’s Contract Extended 4 Months ‘If Necessary’

Last year Jim Valenti announced he would be leaving in May.  The El Paso Times is announcing that the UMC board unanimously voted to extend his contract up to 4 months ‘if necessary’.  They state that they will be reviewing the final candidates sometime in April.  At least Witt/Kieffer, the executive search firm, has finally posted the job.

UMC Chief Legal Counsel Jumping Ship

Image courtesy

In his Friday letter last week, Jim Valenti announced that Eddie Sosa, UMC Chief Legal Counsel, would be leaving effective March 14th.  Mr. Sosa has worked for UMC for the last 16 years and has left to take a “position as the First Assistant to the El Paso County Attorney, Jo Anne Bernal.”

Jim Valenti’s last day is quickly approaching.  Although we hear constant rumors (most likely started by him) that he will be staying, this is a strong indication that his time with UMC is over.  His failed vivavalenti campaign proved that El Paso is, at best, apathetic towards him with fewer than 70 people signing his petition to keep him at UMC.  The recent article in the El Paso Times about how he mislead the Commissioner’s Court about bonuses shows that he has few public supports there. Now we see the first of his management team leaving.

We predict that Eddie Sosa is just the first, not the last, of Jim Valenti’s management team to jump to something new. An interesting side note, Eddie Sosa was on the committee formed to find a new CEO for UMC.  Does this mean that they have found one and just haven’t announced it yet?