Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Memorial task force unanimously picks University Hospital bid

ANDREW WINEKE Updated: December 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

It’s unanimous: University of Colorado Hospital is the consensus choice of the Memorial Health System task force to lease the city-owned hospital.

The City Council members on the task force voted 4-0 on Monday to recommend University Hospital’s bid and cap a discussion over the hospital’s future that began two years ago.

Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, who heads the task force, said the unanimous endorsement sends a strong message to the rest of City Council, who will pick up the matter on Jan. 9, and to voters, who will ultimately approve or reject the lease arrangement. That's essential to putting the uncertainty over the hospital's future to rest and rebuilding Memorial, Martin said.

“I think moving forward with a unanimous position really sets Memorial in the best position to win the vote and as expeditiously as possible move forward,” Martin said.

Councilman Merv Bennett said University’s proposal offered the best vision for the health care in the community.

“When talking about the future of Memorial, it always returns that the future should include a collaborative relationship with University Hospital and Poudre Valley Hospital,” Bennett said. “I agree. Because of this, I believe that it is best to create that arrangement now, not later.”

Carm Moceri, Memorial’s chief strategy officer, said finally having a clear direction for the hospital will help it regain its footing.

“If there are any delays in the City Council process, that would hurt the organization,” Moceri said. “To continue to move forward rapidly is the best thing. The uncertainty is very difficult for (Memorial).”

The seven advisory members on the task force backed the University bid unanimously on Friday, but only the votes of the City Council members on the task force counted in making a recommendation to the full council.

University of Colorado Hospital is offering the city a 40-year lease for Memorial, with a $74 million up front and $5.6 million a year in annual payments, plus a profit-sharing agreement and a commitment of $3 million a year toward establishing a branch medical campus at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

University Hospital is forming a joint operating agreement with Fort Collins-based Poudre Valley Health System, so the addition of Memorial would give the new University of Colorado Health System coverage over all of eastern Colorado, said Poudre Valley Health System CEO Rulon Stacey.

“I am absolutely convinced that it will mean better health care from New Mexico to Wyoming,” Stacey said.

Jeff Dorsey, CEO of HCA-HealthOne, another bidder for Memorial, said he was “very disappointed” by Friday’s decision. HCA-HealthOne, which offered a $500 million up front lease payment in its bid, had called on the task force to advance two finalists to the full council and Dorsey urged the council to give another look at his company’s proposal.

“With just a month to evaluate five proposals and thousands of pages, (the task force) rushed to judgment,” Dorsey said in a statement. “Members still do not understand the real value of the bids, because they ignored the city attorney’s advice to obtain independent financial valuations.”

Martin said forwarding a single choice is better for Memorial and for the community.

“Two bids and a long, contentious campaign would not serve the hospital at this point,” she said.

Councilwoman Brandy Williams said she personally preferred the HCA-HealthOne bid, but that the task force’s mission was to bring forward a single recommendation and that the support for University’s bid from the medical representatives on the task force swayed her.

“I don’t really see that now is the time to pit two hospitals against each other,” Williams said. “Let’s go 100 percent here. If it doesn’t work out, then we’ll see.”

Councilman Tim Leigh also expressed admiration for HCA-HealthOne’s bid, but ultimately chose University’s offer.

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