Memorial proposal met with approval, questions

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A standing-room only crowd clapped loudly when Larry McEvoy finished presenting the administration’s vision for Memorial’s future.
The crowd, filled with Memorial employees, heard Memorial’s proposal for its future for the first time at tonight’s citizens’ commission meeting.
The proposal was met with largely positive responses from the commissioners, the employees and the hospital’s board of trustees.
“That was a masterful presentation,” said commissioner Paul Dougherty. “We’ve heard a lot of these, and that was right at the top. And certainly, it’s a very attractive option.”
Peggy James, another commission member, suggested McEvoy might be at home speaking from one of the city’s many pulpits. The Chicago consultant hired to guide the commission through the process gave McEvoy a thumbs-up.
“That was very nice,” he said. “This was an important night for the commission. I know most of the people here were here to see Larry (McEvoy), but it’s equally important that they stay involved from here on out. We’re done with the research phase now.”
Arlene Stein, chair of the Memorial Board of Trustees, told the commission the board stood behind McEvoy’s proposal.
“This model has our full support,” she said. “It keeps health care local, and allows the hospital to fulfill its mission of providing high quality care.”
Jim Moore, vice chair of the board, said he also endorsed McEvoy’s proposal.
“This option is the best one that give us the potential to survive a variety of scenarios going forward,” he said. “At the core, we need to focus on the care, even in these challenging times for health care.”
While none of the commissioners went so far as to openly endorse McEvoy’s proposal, Dave Munger wanted to know more. He asked McEvoy how he would implement the new 501(c)3.
McEvoy was quick to say the hospital had no specific plan, and was willing to negotiate with the city on specifics – would the hospital simply be transferred, like the Carson-Tahoe system in Nevada? That system gave up a $105 million profit to be transferred to a nonprofit for a single dollar, with the caveat the hospital would continue to serve indigent patients.
“We just don’t have the specifics of what it’s going to look like,” McEvoy said. “That will come with time, and negotiations.”
Audience members were enthusiastic about the proposal itself, but skeptical about the details.
“I applaud the integrated care model,” said Gloria Johnson. “But this model won’t work without the doctors. I’m worried that it can’t be done without their support.”
McEvoy acknowledged the administration was working on that very issue. Memorial has scheduled several doctors’ forums in the coming weeks, he said.
“If you are asking me if we’ve talked to doctors, the answer is yes,” he said. “If you are asking me if it’s gone smoothly, the answer is no. If you’re asking if the conversation is finished, the answer is no. Doctors have had a lot of changes thrust on them in the past few years, and we want them to be part of the process. They need to know they can choose to be creators and join with us to create something good for them and for patients.”
The commission will meet again Sept. 7 to nail down the pros and cons of each of the models they are examining: sale to a for-profit system or a nonprofit system, transfer to a hospital authority, with the city retaining some control, or creating an independent nonprofit. While everyone now knows where the hospital stands, the debate for the commission is just starting.
The public will have its chance too. A second town hall meeting is scheduled for Sept. 22, and a third one for Oct. 20.
The commission is expected to make a final recommendation to city council Nov. 22.