Naked City

Brack Watchdogs Give Up

Two of the three remaining members of the Brackenridge Hospital Oversight Council resigned unexpectedly Monday night, citing the oft-heard complaint that the BHOC serves no useful purpose. But if Dr. Jim Brand and DeAnn Friedholm had their way, the council would have a much better defined role as the public's watchdog of Austin's public hospital.

"At its core, I'm resigning because it's a waste of time," said Brand, who until this week served as chairman of the group. Two other members were previously relieved of their duties for lack of attendance, Brand said; only Donna Ammons remains. The City Council created the group after inking its 1995 lease agreement with Seton Healthcare Network to manage Brackenridge and Children's Hospital. Seton, a private nonprofit affiliated with the Catholic Church, keeps its financial records and other proprietary information under tight wraps, as it is legally entitled. But that secrecy raises legitimate concerns about a lack of accountability in public health care delivery at a city-owned facility.

"The oversight council is window-dressing for the relationship between Seton and the city," said Brand, former medical director of People's Community Clinic. "Throughout the council's existence, it's become blatantly clear that there is no 'oversight.'" He placed equal blame on both the city and Seton, but he says his hunch is that City Manager Toby Futrell will take a much more active role in Brackenridge affairs than did her predecessor Jesus Garza -- who is now the Seton-employed CEO of Brackenridge. Futrell's deputy Mike McDonald said the city may opt to disband the oversight group altogether and have Seton report directly to the City Council with semiannual presentations.

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