Jobs, med school top questions about Memorial proposals


Questions about Layoffs and a medical campus dominated a public meeting yesterday about the future of  Memorial Health System.

Centura Health pledged $1.5 million a year for the medical school campus, and Memorial board chairman Jim Moore said he thought a new, independent nonprofit Memorial would match that money.

That means that Colorado Springs would have the dedicated money necessary to get the medical school accredited. It’s the same amount pledged by the University of Colorado Hospital System.

Both HCA/HealthOne and Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth said they would also pay for the medical school, but the funding would come from the city share of the money.

Centura Health was the first bidder yesterday. The health system, which owns Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, focused on collaboration with a nonprofit, independent Memorial.

“This is something we already do,” said Gary Campbell, CEO of Centura Health. “And Memorial is behind this effort.”

The collaboration would be called the Community Health Collaboration and includes Peak Vista Community Health Clinics and Colorado Springs Health Partners.

If the two hospitals combine money to assure the new medical school campus, it won’t be the first financial collaboration. Penrose and Memorial also jointly pay for the El Paso County de-tox center.

And Sabin emphasized that Memorial would control any of the local hiring decisions.

“We wouldn’t be involved with that at all,” she said. “That would be the responsibility of the board.”

The University of Colorado’s presentation brought local UCCS chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak in support of the proposal. Kyle Hybl, chair of the Board of Regents was also at the meeting. Both said the proposal had their full, complete support.

“Like most people, I support a nonprofit Memorial, with a local board,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “This proposal does that. Also, it helps UCCS, which of course, I am in favor of.”

The UCH proposal centered around the proposed medical school branch campus. The group has pledged $3 million during the life of the lease to assure the campus’s funding.

Altogether, the UCH proposal will bring about $1.8 billion in economic benefits – money up front in the lease, capital improvements, the medical school. They pointed to the success of the Anschutz Medical campus as proof.

“It has an economic impact in Aurora of about $2 billion,” said CEO Bruce Schroeffel. “My understanding is that the ski industry has about a $2 billion economic impact. So, it’s comparable.”

UCH said it didn’t plan any lay-offs at Memorial, and also said if Memorial’s proposal was chosen by voters, that they would still be interested in partnering with the hospital.

“This is about vision, values and mission,” he said. “And we think Memorial shares those with us. We struggled with the affiliation agreements that are underway with Poudre Valley (health system) because it means we give up some control. Before, it was my checkbooks, I spent it the way I wanted to. Now, it’s a shared thing.”

UCH and Poudre Valley are finalizing a joint operating agreement.

Memorial came third in the rotation and Dr. Larry McEvoy gave the presentation, focusing on local control and local growth.

“You are us,” he said. “We are you. This proposal is about you, as a community. What do you want to see health care become?”

He said a local board would have total control over the hospital, and all proceeds would be directed back into the health system.

The concept isn’t isolation, he said.

“All these groups that have come knocking during the RFP process, will still be here if we are independent,” he said. “This is about operating in isolation – that isn’t possible in today’s health care environment.”

HCA’s Jeff Dorsey told the crowd that the $324 million that the city will receive up front could go straight into city coffers. Attorney General John Suthers has ruled that any sale or lease to a for-profit system would trigger the Hospital Transfer Act – and money from it would have to go to a nonprofit foundation for health care.

“We believe that the only thing keeping the city from the money is a local law,” Dorsey said.

Local laws govern money from enterprise funds.

HCA said there might be job cuts up front, but that the overall plan is to grow the system.

Sisters of Charity came last in the lineup, and also promised money for a medical school in the Springs.

The group also said that there might be job cuts up front, but that those would be recovered as Memorial grows.

Sisters of Charity also said it would be willing to work with Memorial in a partnership, if the city council and voters choose to create an independent, nonprofit system.