ODESSA -- The Ector County Hospital District has a new protocol in place for board meetings that impacts the amount of information readily available to community members.
The hospital district posts an agenda prior to every meeting. A board packet/ agenda packet is also usually posted by MCHS that provides a little more information about items the board will vote on or discuss.
Beginning this month, community members will have to request the agenda packet through a Freedom of Information request issued to MCHS’ chief legal counsel.
Medical Center Hospital CEO and President, Rick Napper, said the agenda packet policy was put in place under his direction.
“I agree 100 percent that people have a right to know what people are voting on, that’s what agenda is,” he said.
The agenda packet helps community members follow the monthly updates on hospital finances, plans and other items. The agenda packet also gives more insight into the item being voted on, since oftentimes there isn’t detailed discussion by board members before a vote in the board meeting.
Napper said the new policy is actually a procedure that was in place already, and should have been followed.
"It was unbeknown to me that it was not being followed as it should have been," he said.
Napper said he made the decision to follow state statutes.
“It’s in state statutes. I’ll put you in the place of a board member. So if a board member or news media or other people are getting the information before the board member has the opportunity to review it, put yourself in their place. They’re having decisions on that and they have questions that could change that packet. But now it’s already released into public information,” he said.
Napper used the example of an audit that was conducted and presented in Tuesday night’s meeting, saying it wasn’t public information until it was approved by vote.
Medical Center Health System receives property tax and sales tax from Ector County.
Napper said it’s only his place to implement policy, not comment on the statute.
“I don’t comment on a police officer commenting on me speeding when the law says it's 55 [miles per hour], right?” he said.
If a community member requests the agenda packet from the hospital district, the district should typically reply within 10 business days.