NOREEN: Memorial deal has broad support

July 6, 2012
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The long-awaited ballot measure to get Colorado Springs out of the hospital business is up on the rails and mail-in ballots will begin arriving in mail boxes in about a month.

In the increasingly competitive health care marketplace it is getting tougher for hospitals to survive on their own. National for-profit hospital chains have been gaining the upper hand as non-profits either band together or are sold to the corporations.

Many experts agree Memorial Health System can’t survive on its own.

A state law precludes the city from merely selling Memorial Health System and pouring the proceeds into its general fund. Any profit would have to be spent on some kind of community health-related purpose.

The proposed answer it to lease Memorial to University of Colorado Health, which already is linked with another non-profit, Poudre Valley Health System in Fort Collins. If city voters approve, Colorado Springs would get $259 million right away, $5.6 million a year in annual lease revenue and another $3 million a year for a med school at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

So in addition to getting cash for an asset the city has built since 1949, the deal offers the potential of enhancing UCCS, which has become an important economic engine for the city. Severing ties with Memorial means city taxpayers will never be on the hook if the hospital fell into the red — which looked like a possibility a couple of years ago.

A broad cross-section of city leaders and organizations endorsed the ballot measure Thursday. A group called Great City, Great Care will be mailing brochures to voters in a few days, and the coalition’s director, Stephannie Finley, said television ads will air soon.

What if voters reject the deal?

“Memorial would stay in the state it is in now, and I don’t think the status quo will work. It’s precarious,” Finley said.

On one hand the ballot measure is the culmination of a three-year process involving many from Memorial and people in the community. But it’s also a chance for city voters to decide a debate that has simmered for decades about the city owning a hospital.

Truth is, if Colorado Springs did not own one, it would not be in the market for one.

The list of supporters released by Finley notably includes a few who have been critical of how the city handled the public dialogue during the last three years. Memorial’s credibility was hurt when former CEO Dr. Larry McEvoy, who led that dialogue, walked away with a $1.15 million severance package.

Ironically, the public’s outrage over that is one more reason to vote for the ballot measure, getting City Hall out of the hospital business for good.

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


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