UMC officials say they need about $400 million for hospital improvements

The El Paso County Hospital District is considering issuing up to $400 million in bond certificates — bonds that don’t require voter approval — for various upgrades to El Paso University Medical Center.

The hospital district made a presentation Thursday in the El Paso County Commissioners Court, but commissioners asked for time for public participation before voting on whether to approve a notice of intent required to issue the debt later this year. Commissioners will reconsider the Hospital District’s request on June 27.

Bond funding would be used to expand the emergency room, cancer center, children’s surgery and emergency department, burn operating rooms and outpatient surgery departments, as well as a health center neighborhood in Central El Paso. The clinic, which would serve the Central and Mission Valley areas, would focus on geriatrics, include 50 primary care exam rooms and feature a new urgent care center.

Michael Nuñez, the hospital district’s chief financial officer, said the bonds would raise the tax rate by less than 6 cents for the first 10 years, then just under 3 cents for years 11 through 25.

That translates to an additional $55.40 a year in taxes on a $100,000 home for the first 10 years, or about $4.62 a month, Nuñez said. After the first 10 years, that would mean an increase of $2.28 per month or $27.40 per year on the home of the same value.

Nuñez also said the bond issue would not negatively impact the Hospital District’s bond rating.

“It’s been nine years since we’ve had a bond. This is my first time asking for bail,” said Jacob Cintron, who in 2016 became president and CEO of the University Medical Center and Hospital District.

Cintron highlighted the hospital and healthcare worker response following the August 3, 2019 terrorist attack and the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several victims of the mass shooting that killed 23 people and injured dozens more were treated at UMC. The hospital was also at the epicenter of treating thousands of patients who contracted COVID-19 and played a key role in providing vaccines when the city was behind in its vaccine rollout.

El Paso University Medical Center (Cindy Ramirez/El Paso Matters)

Construction of UMC’s main hospital on Alameda Avenue was completed in 1961. The hospital has undergone several renovations in recent years and clinics have been built with $152 million in bond certificates approved in 2013. Bonds were also used to add emergency rooms to the northeast and east. clinical side.

While commissioners largely agreed that the expansion and capital projects are necessary, they feared the public needed more time to understand the implications of the debt.

Commissioner Iliana Holguin said the public had not had enough time to “digest” the information. Commissioner Carlos Leon also said more time was needed for public awareness.

“We have to involve the public in our discussions and ask them: ‘What do you want us to do?’ And that they understand exactly what the ramifications are if we vote yes, and what the ramifications are if we vote no,” Leon said, adding that he understands the need to improve the hospital because he had to go out. city ​​for cancer treatments. .

The Hospital District Board of Trustees approved a resolution at its Tuesday meeting asking the county commissioners to authorize the debt issuance notice. The county agenda did not include a backup or presentation on UMC’s request until Wednesday afternoon.

“We should run a massive public awareness campaign to make sure the community understands why the UMC and why the Court of Commissioners may think we need it,” Commissioner David Stout said. “That’s a lot – that’s half a billion dollars that we’re asking taxpayers to be responsible for over the next 25 years.”

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