A Match Made in Heaven?

In 1994, when the city issued a Code Blue on Brackenridge Hospital's $21 million shortfall, Seton Healthcare Network came to the rescue. Seton agreed to lease the scandal-ridden hospital from the city and manage its day-to-day operations. The two tied the knot, for better or for worse, in the spring of 1995.

Jan. 13, 1994: Former Mayor Bruce Todd calls a late-night news conference to announce a $21 million shortfall at Brackenridge. Todd, a CPA, blames the losses on sloppy accounting and calls for the city manager's head. The accounting snafu may be real, but some observers suspect it is being used as a political weapon on behalf of privatization.

Jan. 20, 1994: City Manager Camille Barnett resigns.

March 1994: Brackenridge administrator Deborah Lee-Eddie resigns.

June 1994: City Council hires acting City Manager Jesus Garza to succeed Barnett.

January 1995: The city asks Seton to submit a proposal to manage Brackenridge.

Spring 1995: Public health care advocates accuse Garza of steering City Council's hospital management search away from the front-runner, a city-created public entity called the Austin Hospital Authority, toward Seton.

March 1995: Former patient services director at Brackenridge is indicted on felony bribery charges.

May 1995: City approves lease agreement with Seton, but not before state Rep. Glen Maxey protests the contract's lack of explicit language on access to health care.

October 1995: Seton assumes management of Brackenridge.

Fall 1998: Mark Gentle resigns his seat on the Brack oversight committee, calling its mission "a fruitless gesture of nominal oversight."

2001: Seton says it needs to change its lease to comply with the Catholic Church's ban on birth control services.

February 2002: Council approves a city-run "hospital within a hospital" at Brackenridge to continue poor women's access to reproductive services.

Spring 2002: Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman calls for a countywide hospital district.

July 2002: Steering committee forms to draft legislation for a district with city-county oversight.

October 2002: Seton asks the city for a lease amendment that would allow it to close the city-owned Children's Hospital at Brackenridge and relocate to a new facility, under Seton ownership. Seton later agrees to withdraw its request for a lease change, at least temporarily.

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