Memorial Health moving its urgent care center

Memorial Health System is paying nearly $1 million to move its urgent care clinic to a part of a city it says is underserved.

The Springs Medical Clinic, now located on Pikes Peak Ave., just blocks from Memorial’s main campus, will move to the Kohl’s shopping center at Janitell Road and Circle Drive.

Memorial officials say the move was prompted by a survey of patients throughout the Pikes Peak region.

“We found that that area — south and southwest — was underserved,” said John Suits, assistant administrator for government affairs at Memorial. “Those people are using our emergency room instead. We’re hoping this move alleviates that pressure.”

The clinic staff saw more than 41,000 patients in 2009, while Memorial’s emergency room treated more than 100,000 patients.

“What we found when we expanded the ER (in 2007) was that if you build it larger, they will come,” Suits said. “We have 100 beds, and the ER is pretty much always full. But our ER docs think the clinics help, and really, we believe that the future lies in taking the health care to the people.”

The new facility is slightly smaller — 10,000 square feet as opposed to the 13,000 square feet at the current location. But the difference lies in efficiency, Suits said.

The current location is in the old Eisenhower hospital, and the doctors see patients in former hospital rooms, which Memorial believes is inefficient. The new building, which will be renovated by Houston Construction, will allow for better patient flow and more services.

The move toward urgent care clinics — or convenient care, as Suits calls it — is typical among hospitals seeking to control costs. Emergency room visits are the most expensive way to access health care.

Memorial commission hears from consultant

The citizens’ commission determining the future of Memorial Health System heard from a paid consultant last week about the state of the system and the options for turning the system into a nonprofit organization.

The system is unique in many ways, which makes it attractive to potential suitors, said David Burik, managing director and marketing development leader for Navigant Consulting. The commission paid Burik $15,000 for the five-hour presentation.

Memorial, despite its strengths, also has challenges.

Those challenges include stiff competition with Centura’s Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, an organization with “deeper pockets.” Burik said the competing hospital systems in Colorado Springs are in a “medical arms race.”

Lack of training for doctors and a residency program, and lack of integration with doctors in private practice are also weaknesses in the system, he said.

That said, the hospital is a market leader, holding 65 percent of the inpatient share of the market. And with its northern Colorado Spring location, it is well situated to capitalize on the growing, affluent areas of northern El Paso County.

Compared to other Colorado hospitals, Memorial is a “powerhouse,” Burik said.

The system is ranked second in net revenues, first in beds and first in admissions. Its net revenue is double the average for the state’s 25 largest hospitals.

On the other hand, every one of those top 25 hospitals, with the exception of Memorial, is affiliated with larger systems such as HCA, Catholic Health Initiatives and Banner. Memorial is a fraction of the size of those national systems, he said, which could leave it vulnerable in some respects.

Burik also discussed the types of buyers and partners that might be interested in the system including not-for-profit systems, large and small for-profit systems and physician groups.

The hospital also has the option f merging with a partner, maintaining its own board and gaining some governance rights, he said. The advantages in that option include giving Memorial substantial capital, affiliation with a larger organization and more local control than a for-profit relationship.

Burik cautioned that in case of a sale to a for-profit, there would be a loss of control and that in bad times, “corporate will do what it needs without local approval.”

“We can’t change the laws of the market,” he said. “If Memorial doesn’t earn capital, it might not get it. Likewise, Memorial’s capital might be more useful elsewhere.”

The commission will make its recommendation to the city council on Nov. 22.

CSHP bans smoking

Starting earlier this week, employees in Colorado Springs’ largest physician practice are no longer allowed to smoke at work.

Colorado Springs Health Partners went tobacco-free Aug. 9, and banned smoking in its buildings, entrances, parking lots, walkways and roadways by employees and patients.

The practice worked closely with the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment to develop the new policy. The group is also offering tobacco cessation resources through the local health department.