Dr. Roberto de la Cruz

The domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees at Parkland hospital will soon have access to health benefits, after the facility’s Board of Managers voted Tuesday to approve a proposal first put forward four years ago.

The Board of Managers voted 6-0, with one member abstaining, to offer DP benefits to gays and lesbians who are among the Parkland Health & Hospital System’s 9,400 employees.

The addition of DP benefits, which takes effect Jan. 1, is expected to cost $696,635 in fiscal year 2012. But Dr. Lauren McDonald, who chairs the Board of Managers, said the benefits will make Parkland more competitive and improve its quality of care.

“I think if anything it eventually enriches us as opposed to costing us money,” said McDonald, adding that DP benefits have been “a long time coming.”

McDonald also chaired the Board of Managers in September 2007, when a proposal to add DP benefits was pulled from the board’s agenda at the last minute due to political pressure. Parkland is owned by Dallas County, and the Board of Managers is appointed by the Commissioners Court, which was then controlled by Republicans.

After Democrats took over control of the Commissioners Court at the start of this year, several new members were appointed to the seven-person Board of Managers.

They include Dr. Roberto de la Cruz, who is openly gay and made the motion to approve DP benefits on Tuesday.

“It’s a big day,” de la Cruz said after the vote, adding that he trained as an intern at Parkland in the 1990s. “It’s a personal day for me because I come from here.”

The Board of Managers member who abstained from Tuesday’s vote was Jerry Bryant. “I don’t want to discuss it,” Bryant said when asked the reason for his abstention.