Central Health board requests more info after Dell Med presentation following Commissioners Court order for audit

Claire Stevens, News Reporter

After the Travis County Commissioners Court ordered an independent audit of Central Health, one of Dell Medical School’s partners, Dell representatives held a presentation Wednesday to answer questions from the community.

Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district, works to provide healthcare to low-income and uninsured residents of the county, including a yearly voter-approved investment of $35 million to Dell Medical School. The order for the audit was prompted by concerns from residents and organizations, such as NAACP Austin, that Central Health’s annual contribution to Dell Medical was being used improperly. At the Central Health Board of Managers’ July meeting, George Macones, Dell’s interim dean, and Amy Young, Dell’s vice dean of professional practice, vouched for Dell and focused on the positive outcomes the school has achieved with support from Central Health’s funding.

Dell has attracted over 400 doctors to Austin and has played a critical role in the county’s COVID-19 response and outcomes, Macones and Young said. They said Dell’s initiatives, like the Musculoskeletal Institute and Women’s Health Institute have greatly expanded healthcare options for Travis County — including its low-income residents.

Macones also shared a breakdown of which departments receive funds from the annual gifts, which account for 12% of the school’s budget.

Macones said Dell Medical was willing to comply with the audit of Central Health.

“I want to make sure that you know that we are willing partners that are committed to honesty and transparency as part of that process,” Macones said.

Still, members of Central Health’s Board of Managers had more questions about the use of the annual $35 million gifts, with several managers requesting more information that specifically details how the money is being spent.

Manager Cynthia Valdez was among those who were concerned that an audit of Central Health would not necessarily include all of the financial information about Dell that managers are seeking — especially in regard to what portion of Dell’s funds provide care for low-income individuals. Central Health specifically serves residents of Travis county who are uninsured or below 200% federal poverty level, Valdez said. 

“What we need to know is the services that are being provided to our clients, who we have the privilege of serving and who desperately need this health care and help,” manager Sherri Greenberg said.

Editor’s note: this story was updated to reflect that Central Health will provide a yearly voter-approved investment of $35 million, not a gift. The Texan regrets this error.