JPS Health Network’s board of managers meets monthly to discuss hospital policy, the bond program and other issues. By state law, these meetings are open to the public, and anyone can speak up about an agenda item.
In the past five years, though, members of the public have addressed the board only a handful of times.
Most of the people who spoke criticized having a McDonald’s on the hospital’s first floor. One person worried over the price of parking at JPS: $4. Another said she’d found inaccuracies in her electronic medical record.
Still, nearly 90% of monthly meetings passed without “citizens wishing to address the board,” according to a Fort Worth Report analysis of minutes from previous meetings.
Steve Montgomery, a former JPS board member whose yearslong tenure ended in December, theorizes that people aren’t aware of the opportunity to provide feedback, don’t feel connected to hospital issues or, simply, are busy.
“It’s hard to take time out to go talk to the hospital board, unless it’s something really, materially, impacting you personally,” he said.
But JPS Health Network, the county’s safety net hospital, does impact people personally — both through their taxes and through their health care, Montgomery said. Here’s how and why to participate in JPS board of managers’ meetings.
‘(JPS) impacts our community profoundly’
About 40% of the hospital’s more than $1 billion operating revenue comes from Tarrant County property taxes.
“They spend it here locally. That alone is impactful to people’s lives,” he said. “It should be open government, it should be transparent, and all their actions should be in public view, when you’re spending that kind of money.”
JPS Health Network has also carved care niches in Tarrant County. As the county hospital, the system serves people who can’t afford health care. And, as the first of two Level 1 Trauma Centers in the county, JPS Health Network can provide the most comprehensive trauma care available, from prevention to recovery.
“(JPS) impacts our community profoundly, in ways that I think a lot of people maybe don’t realize,” Montgomery said. “They maybe take for granted.”
Addressing the JPS board in a public meeting
Texas law requires the board to allow members of the public to address agenda items before or while the board discusses those items.
When people share publicly, Montgomery said, they can sharpen the board’s awareness of community problems. In the early 2000s, he remembers, dozens of people addressed the hospital’s decision to exclude people who are undocumented from its subsidized care program.
He’s also seen board members connect speakers to staff members who might be able to respond to their concerns.
“That was done fairly frequently, I think,” he said. “Somebody would say, ‘Hey, I’m going to ask so-and-so to reach out to you directly.”
People can also bring up issues that aren’t on the agenda, a JPS Health Network spokesperson wrote in an email.
“But any discussion of that subject must be limited to a proposal to place the subject on the agenda for a future meeting,” the spokesperson wrote.
People can also request an agenda item by contacting the board or executive suite, Montgomery said.
How to watch, participate in JPS board meetings
The board meetings typically take place at 1 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, on the third floor of John Peter Smith Hospital. People can attend in person or watch the livestream online.
Upcoming meetings for 2023:
December 14 combined with Finance 10 a.m.
To watch past meetings, view the video recordings here. The same page includes agendas for future meetings, as well as agendas and minutes for past meetings.
The hospital posts each agenda online and in the locked glass case on the first floor of the hospital at 1500 S. Main St. at least three days in advance of the meeting. Each agenda includes an item called “Citizens Wishing to Address the Board.”
Members of the public can speak about agenda items during this time. No registration is required, Montgomery said. People simply show up and sign in before the public comment item comes up on the agenda. In previous meetings, the board chair limited speakers to three minutes.
Other pathways for offering feedback exist.
“JPS values patient and community member feedback,” the hospital spokesperson wrote. “There are patient and community advisory groups that exist in different areas of the health network. The feedback provided by these groups is key to helping the network navigate the future of healthcare delivery at JPS.”
To learn more about patient feedback, the spokesperson wrote, people can visit the hospital’s Patient Tools webpage.
Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.