Critical Condition: War Between Dallas News and Parkland Escalates Over "Ouster" Story

A few weeks back we took a look at the back-and-forth between The Dallas Morning News and Parkland Memorial Hospital, which, in recent months, has been the subject of numerous investigative pieces detailing patients put at risk and "needlessly harmed," in the words of News Deputy Managing Editor Maud Beelman. But the battle between the two entities jumped to a whole new level yesterday: In the morning, the paper published a piece by Brooks Egerton that said as a result of the paper's investigative series, most of the Parkland board was "being ousted," and that Dr. Ron Anderson's "long tenure as chief executive is approaching an end."

At 3:46 p.m. yesterday, Dr. Lauren McDonald, chair of Parkland's board of managers, sent an e-blast to media and hospital supporters accusing the paper of Pulitzer-baiting. Wrote McDonald, the paper "didn't let truth get in the way of writing their stories, nor do we expect this attack to stop. We may see an increase in personal attacks against the people who remain at Parkland, and those who are loyal to it." Her letter follows in full.

A Message From Parkland's Chair of the Board of Managers

After 69 Public Information Act requests over the last nine months (including requests for the telephone numbers and home addresses of each of our employees, requests for the personnel files of at least eight employees and pictures of newborn babies), The Dallas Morning News on Jan. 29, created a story that gave the impression that the Board of Managers was being "ousted" and that Dr. Ron Anderson, Parkland's president and CEO, was leaving.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As chair of the Parkland Board of Managers, I want to assure you that we stand together: board members, hospital leadership, physicians and the greatest health care employees in America. We provide critical health care services to the people of our community who need it most.

Yes, five members of the Board of Managers may be replaced in the coming weeks. Newly-elected Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia have chosen to appoint Debbie Branson and Patricia Rodriguez Gorman, respectively, as their representatives to the Parkland board. That is their legal right and responsibility and is customary for new elected officials. Board member Alan Walne, appointed by Commissioner Mike Cantrell, has reached his term limit and may be replaced. In addition, the Commissioner's Court also names two members of the board collectively and they may chose to name members other than Dr. Chad Park and Louis Beecherl. This is a regular process and not, as The Dallas Morning News would have their readers believe, unusual and vindictive.

In fact, Dr. Anderson shared an e-mail with me that he received from Judge Jenkins who wrote, "You have my full support and I appreciate your service to our community and your nation. I want to work with you to build a world class, state-of-the-art new Parkland. As you know, this new hospital will be the largest in the free world, and the project wouldn't have been possible without the belief in Parkland's mission by the public. Their decision to fund this project two months after the fall of Lehman Bros., in some dark and unsteady times, was and endorsement of leadership and vision."

It is a disgrace for The Dallas Morning News to take my concern for Dr. Anderson and his family's health (which should be of no interest to The Dallas Morning News) and turn it into innuendo that Dr. Anderson has near-term plans to leave Parkland. I am aware of no such plans or intentions initiated by the Board of Managers or Dr. Anderson.

Finally, think about what has been accomplished: Parkland is one of this country's most financially sound public hospitals, we are funding the construction of the clinic building without relying on bonds and the University Healthcare Consortium has named Parkland one of its elite hospitals. The truth is, The Dallas Morning News had to wrap up its year-long attack on Parkland in order to meet its Feb. 1 deadline to submit their application for the Pulitzer Prize. They didn't let truth get in the way of writing their stories, nor do we expect this attack to stop. We may see an increase in personal attacks against the people who remain at Parkland, and those who are loyal to it. We have all chosen to serve Parkland and its patients because of our inherent beliefs and values.

Thank you for your continued support of Parkland as we serve the patients and community who depend on us.

Thank you for your support,
Lauren McDonald, MD
Chair, Parkland Board of Managers

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky