Panel gets an earful on options for Memorial Health System

June 29, 2010

Should the city sell Memorial Health System? The commission charged with recommending what to do with Memorial Health System got an earful Tuesday night.

State Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, echoed many comments at the packed meeting when he wondered why the city was again considering selling the hospital system.

“I’m wondering what the problem is we’re trying to solve.” Merrifield said.

Mayor Lionel Rivera answered Merrifield, saying that evaluating the ownership or governance of the system was important to make sure residents don’t have to bail out the hospital with tax money —but also to protect the hospital from the citizens that it serves.

“Look at the ridiculous things that have ended up on the ballot and people have passed,” Rivera said. “There’s nothing that prevents that from happening to Memorial as well.”

An audience of about 150 people, including a heavy contingent of Memorial employees and staff, attended the town hall, which the Citizens’ Commission on Ownership and Governance of Memorial Health System called to get public input as it begins to look at options for selling, transferring or changing the governance of the city-owned hospital system.

Larry Singer, the Chicago-based health care expert that the commission hired as a consultant, said that because of health care reform and the economic downturn, many communities and organizations were taking a hard look at their health care systems.

“This is no fun for the community, it’s no fun for the commissioners,” he said. “This is the time to definitively answer that question.”

Priscilla Eagye said she went into the meeting believing that the commission was predisposed toward selling the system but came away believing the commission is open-minded.

“I’m just a citizen, and I don’t want to see Colorado Springs lose its hospital,” she said.
Resident Don Stewart said he hadn’t reached a conclusion on what the city should do with Memorial but that he thought the commission was doing a good job.

“I think there will be a clear understanding on the part of the commission what to do when they get through this,” he said. “It’s a heavy subject.”

On the other hand, Ken Cantin — a health care consultant who applied to serve on the commission but wasn’t selected — said that he was frustrated with the commission.

“What have they done?” he asked. “They’ve spent a quarter of a million dollars, but what have they done?”

Call the writer at 636-0275

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