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 this week to approve a proposal first put forward nearly 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 at Parkland, 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 offering the benefits will make the hospital more competitive for workers and improve the quality of care it provides to patients. "I think if anything it eventually enriches us as opposed to costing us money," McDonald said after the vote, adding that DP benefits have been "a long time coming." In September 2007, McDonald pulled a proposal to add DP benefits from the Board of Managers' agenda at the last minute, citing opposition from "ultra-right wing, homophobic" board members. Parkland is Dallas County's public hospital, and the Board of Managers is appointed by the Commissioners Court, which was then controlled by Republicans.