Chief of medicine Pawar resigns Memorial post

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One of the highest profile executives at Memorial Health System has tendered his resignation.

Dr. Manoj Pawar, chief medical officer at Memorial, is leaving the hospital, apparently to pursue independent consulting work. He owns Banyan Tree Consulting in Denver. Pawar did not return calls about reasons for leaving.

Pawar joined Memorial in early 2009.

Otherwise, the hospital and its cross-town rival, Penrose-St. Francis Health Center, are experiencing record low turnover — and both say the recession is part of the reason why.

Even at Memorial, where employees have been listening to the drawn-out debate about the hospital system’s future, turnover is much the same as it is at Penrose.

Memorial’s turnover stands about 16.7 percent, while Penrose’s is 14 percent. For Memorial, that translates into a total of 740 people who have left during the past 12 months. Penrose declined to release its actual numbers.

That’s better than in previous years, but neither figure is exactly good.

“About 10 percent, that’s the gold standard,” said Gary Morse, vice president of human resources at Penrose. “If you’ve gotten there, in this industry, you’re just about there.”

Three years ago, when jobs were more plentiful, turnover at Penrose was 24 percent.

But once the recession hit, older workers started putting off retirements and fewer people left to new jobs. That’s good news for the hospitals, which are spared the expense of recruiting and training new workers.

But it’s bad news for the latest graduates from the area’s nursing schools, and it leaves the hospitals in a perplexing situation.

“Both of us, Penrose and Memorial, are working toward the day we know these nurses will leave,” Morse said. “The average age of retirement for a nurse is 50, because it’s such hard work. The average age of our nurses is 48.”

That means getting a new crop of nurses ready to go for the coming shortage, something that’s received a lot of attention in the press. What hasn’t got as much attention is the fact that these nurses now can’t find jobs.

Memorial Commission asks for input

The Memorial Commission heard from the medical community two weeks ago, and now it wants to hear from business leaders.

The commission is holding a special meeting at 6:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4, at the Carnegie Library, 20 N. Cascade, to solicit opinions from business leaders about the future of Memorial Health System.

The commission is examining whether to keep the system in the city’s hands, transform it into a stand-alone nonprofit, create a special hospital district, or sell it to a for-profit or nonprofit system. So, what do business leaders want?

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. won’t say.

“We’re leaving that to the commission,” he said. “It’s a political decision, and it’s one the EDC isn’t getting involved in.”

The meeting with business leaders comes after weeks of debating the pros and cons of each of the options. The commission is going over each item to make sure the decision it gives to council is a sound one, said Chair Bob Lally.

The group has spent hours discussing each option. Here’s how those choices are spelled out on the commission website:

Keep things as they are, but remove the mill levy.

Pros: no financial exposure to citizens, no legal exposure. It assures that the board is composed of local residents and it has proven to be effective.

Cons: board appointments are subject to city policies, change is difficult, public meetings discourage potential members from joining the board; the city council creates an inefficient governance structure. Make Memorial a stand-alone, independent nonprofit organization.

Pros: This model, favored by the Memorial administration, offers local governance and control, less public scrutiny, making it possible to be more flexible and more efficient.

The cons: a loss of city control and lack of additional oversight.

“MHS might not be as successful financially as a stand-alone than as part of a larger system,” the website says. “The costs of capital can be higher and the expense of equipment and building can also rise.”

Creating a hospital authority.

Pros/Cons: There’s little exposure to city or taxpayers, but hospital authorities rely on public funding and city, county and state governments are currently strapped for money. The model also continues public ownership, but integrates public health entities.

Selling the hospital to a for-profit.

This option limits financial risk for the city, but allows only an advisory board of local people at the hospital itself. There tends to be higher executive turnover in for-profit ventures and the hospital will have to leave PERA, the state’s pension plan.

Want to read more? Go to www.memorialcitizenscommission.com to review the complete list of pros and cons.

Amy Gillentine can be reached at 719-329-5205 or at amy.gillentine@csbj.com. Friend her on Facebook.