Putting healthcare ahead of bottom line

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The work of the Memorial Citizens’ Commission is for all intents and purposes complete.

This commission, consisting of nine highly educated and diverse citizen volunteers, conducted an extensive public outreach process and provided numerous opportunities for citizen access throughout all quadrants of the community. Our process consisted of more than 50 town hall meetings open to the public, numerous community presentations, frequent news media reports, an interactive blog and a comprehensive website with postings of all the commission’s meeting summaries, research and work product. The work has been comprehensive, transparent, documented, and available to the public.

We worked tirelessly over the past nine months thoroughly analyzing what we conclude is the best option to assure the future of quality health care in our region.

Our recommendation was unanimous: Memorial should become an independent, community non-profit. This is the only model that will allow Memorial to continue to provide the same level of care and benefit to the community that it does today, and to expand our community’s ability to react and respond to our local and regional health care needs for generations to come with local control that cares about families, jobs, and our economic future.

With nine months of extensive research and analysis complete, it is now time for Memorial’s future to be put to a vote in the April election. Let the citizens review this Commission’s work (www.MemorialCitizensCommission.com) and decide for themselves whether Memorial should become a locally-owned, not-for-profit.

With costs on the rise and Colorado Springs population growing, the future of our community hospital is at a point where a decision must be made. The current city ownership model is financially unsustainable. We must act soon to ensure Memorial Health System continues to provide the same quality care that it has for decades.

The goals of this commission were straightforward: minimize financial and legal exposure to Colorado Springs taxpayers, maximize Memorial’s benefit to our community and ensure access to quality healthcare that meets our community’s needs. Nine citizen volunteers spent thousands of collective hours reviewing research, consulting with countless experts, hearing public testimony and analyzing all possible models.

We summarized the pros and cons of each model using a sophisticated data analysis tool and then voted independently on each model. Again, our decision was unanimous.

While our recommendation may not be popular with local healthcare system brokers or national healthcare conglomerate interests, this option allows Memorial to ensure its financial viability and continue to provide the best healthcare possible for all the citizens of Colorado Springs.

Some have asked why the Commission chose not to allow for-profit organizations to submit bids for Memorial. The decision we made not to entertain presentations from for-profit corporations was a deliberate one. We felt strongly that we needed to first decide on the best course of action for the future of Memorial, looking at the pros and cons of converting Memorial to a for-profit hospital system, which we did.

If we had decided that the best course of action was to sell Memorial, then it would have made sense that the next step would include entertaining bids from potential suitors. Entertaining purchase offers from for-profit healthcare systems, working through local consultants who have a vested financial interest in seeing that a sale goes through, is simply wrong.

Doing so, in essence, says all our work over the last nine months was merely an exercise in futility.

As a commission, we unanimously did not recommend the “sell” option. We chose to recommend that Memorial become an independent non-profit locally-owned system, no longer under city control. The commission remains staunchly behind our recommendation.

It has been inaccurately stated that if Memorial were to be sold, Colorado Springs taxpayers would benefit from as much as $350 million that could be put back into the city. The state Attorney General’s opinion is that the Colorado Hospital Transfer Act explicitly prohibits the use/transfer of the net proceeds to the city’s general fund.

Facts matter. The fact is, state law requires that the monies from the sale of the hospital be put into a health-related foundation. Taxpayers would have no control over how that excess money would be spent and Colorado Springs City Hall wouldn’t see a dime.

Some argue that if Memorial became a not-for-profit, it would no longer be accountable to the citizens of Colorado Springs.

This is not true. If Memorial becomes a not-for-profit, it remains a community hospital with a board that will be comprised primarily of Colorado Springs citizens. As a not-for-profit, providing quality healthcare to anyone in need would continue to be a top priority. Our commission’s research indicates that if sold, the acquiring organization could sell to another entity at its convenience and would extract the majority of the profits generated by this system as a return for its initial investment year after year.

The Citizens’ Commission did not make our recommendation based on how the city could potentially make a quick buck, nor did we make it based on the interest of national hospital brokers.

Our recommendation was based on what is best for the people of Colorado Springs and ensuring that Memorial will be able to provide the highest quality care to our community for generations to come.

Memorial Hospital management and staff were supportive of the commission’s work and assisted us in all our requests for information but in no way, at no time, did they ever try to interfere with or manipulate our decision-making process.

We are very pleased that City Council has accepted the commission’s recommendations and is moving toward implementation.

We are absolutely convinced that Memorial will have an even stronger record of quality and accessible health care services under its new organizational and governance model.

We encourage everyone to become educated on this issue and visit our website for the results of our analysis of the pros and cons of the eight possible models.

On behalf of the commission, I would like to express my thanks to everyone who has played a part, or given us input, for our final recommendation. We are proud to be a part of this democratic process.

Bob Lally is the chairman of the Citizens’ Commission on Ownership and Governance of Memorial Health System.