Every option for Memorial finds advocates

October 6, 2010

The commission weighing the future of Memorial Health System heard plenty of viewpoints but little agreement at a town hall meeting Wednesday night.

Nearly every option being considered for the city-owned system had someone at the town hall speak in favor of it.

Dean Tollefson said the city should leave well enough alone and keep Memorial as it is now.
“Why are we fixing something that is working fine?” he asked the commission. “Is it just fear of something that might happen?”

Will Perkins argued that the city should sell the hospital system to a for-profit company.

“The question really comes down to, is running a hospital really the city council’s business, and in my view it isn’t,” he said.

Many people spoke in favor of options between those two extremes. Several Memorial doctors and employees favored turning the hospital into an independent nonprofit, called a 501c3, an option favored by Memorial’s leadership. Dr. David Corry, a vascular surgeon, said converting Memorial to a nonprofit would allow it to work more closely with doctors and provide better care.

“It makes this a no-brainer,” he said. “The choice of a 501c3 seems to be very obvious.”
Walter Lawson, however, worried that an independent Memorial would be less open and responsive than it is now.

“A concern I have with a 501c3 is that it has elements of a private club,” he said. “If you want local control, it doesn’t exist without full access to all information.”

John Klopsch said that, whichever option the commission recommends, the city would benefit from leasing rather than selling or transferring the hospital outright so that the city would maintain leverage over the whoever was running Memorial.

“With a lease structure, there’s a motivation for them to serve the community,” he said.

The commission plans to begin eliminating some options from the list next week and pick its preferred option by Oct. 20. It will present its recommendation to the city council Nov. 22. Any change to Memorial’s ownership or governance would have to be approved by voters in April 2011.

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