Going nonprofit is most sensible option for Memorial

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As the Memorial Citizens Commission has meandered leisurely along its course, producing reams of paper and hours of testimony, we’ve hoped that some clarity would emerge from the process.

Evan Dreyer, Gov. Ritter’s press secretary, once coined a nifty name for the process — “blue-ribboning.”

Got a political dilemma? Just appoint a blue- ribbon commission, let it wrangle and produce a report.

The Memorial Citizens Commission may well be an exception to this rule.

The commission has explored in detail the pros and cons of retaining the existing ownership structure of Memorial Health System, of selling the enterprise and of converting it to a stand-alone independent non-profit.

The system’s structure has worked well, but has thrust it repeatedly into the political arena. The hospital cannot function effectively if its basic ownership arrangement comes repeatedly under fire by the ideological opponents of city ownership. That alone is reason enough to change.

Selling the hospital is not a particularly attractive option. It’s clear that a sale would neither offer the city a cash windfall nor enhance Memorial’s position as a healthcare provider. System policies might be driven more by the bottom line than by community benefit, since local decision-makers would have little role in shaping those policies.

That’s why we hope that the commission will embrace Memorial CEO Larry McEvoy’s eminently sensible plan to become an independent nonprofit, that the city council will accept the commission’s recommendation, and refer the plan to city voters in April.

The plan has a number of compellingly attractive features:

As an independent nonprofit, Memorial would continue to provide the lion’s share of indigent care to city residents, without putting city finances at risk.

Freed from city council supervision, and the sometimes-cumbersome city bureaucracy, Memorial could be a far more agile business, able to react much more quickly to the changing health care market.

This new freedom, McEvoy believes, will allow Memorial to grow revenues from $600 million to $900 million within five years. McEvoy believes that Memorial can become a regional health care provider, and an even more significant contributor to the city’s economy.

If Memorial is no longer a city enterprise, its operations will be safe from the mischievous effects of initiated ordinances such as the three measures (Amendments 60 and 61, Proposition 101) that will appear on the November ballot.

Acquired by voter mandate more than half a century ago, Memorial has grown and prospered. The time has come to re-imagine it, and free it to serve the people of the Pikes Peak region for decades to come.