Board chair does not expect controversy over vote; county judge says change is “‘right thing to do’
The Human Resources Committee of the Parkland Hospital Board of Managers this week approved a recommendation from staff members to add domestic partner benefits to the benefits package the county hospital offers employees.
Dr. Lauren McDonald, board chair, said Wednesday, Sept. 19, that the partner benefits issue will not be on the agenda for the board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25, because board member Alan Wolne, who chairs the Human Resources Committee, will be out of town. McDonald said she does expect the issue to be on the agenda for the board’s next monthly meeting, scheduled for Oct. 23.
McDonald said that adding partner benefits is just one item the board has been studying for some time as part of the process of updating its benefits package. It is not expected to be controversial, she said.
McDonald said that in the case of most hospital employees who have domestic partners, those partners also have jobs, and it is usually less expensive for those partners to get insurance through their own employers. For that reason, she said, she does not think that offering partner benefits would impose a significant financial burden on the hospital.
Both McDonald and County Judge Jim Foster said the question of domestic partner benefits would not need to go before the court for a vote.
“Parkland is a separate entity. The only things the court votes on are the tax rate, the budget and any lease, purchase or sale of property,” Foster said. “The question of partner benefits for employees does not come under the purview of the commissioners court.”
Members of the Parkland board, however, are appointed by the commissioners and Foster, which means that more socially conservative commissioners who might oppose benefits for same-sex couples could have at least an indirect influence on the outcome of the vote.
But Foster and McDonald both said they believe the board and the commissioners will look at the issue from the standpoint of whether it will be a good business decision.
Foster said at a time when “there is such an acute shortage of nurses, nurses from outside the country and get special visas to come here and work,” Parkland has to be able to offer every possible incentive.
“It is just the right thing to do, and the right time to do it,” Foster said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 21, 2007