Martin offers insight into task force’s work

As the Colorado Springs City Council-led task force ends one phase of the process to determine Memorial Health System’s future, controversy is still plaguing the process.

Radio ads have accused the task force of bias, and particularly targeted its chairwoman, Jan Martin.

Martin

Undeterred, the task force issued requests for proposals to hospital systems already operating in Colorado, and expects to hear back from five systems, including Memorial’s current administration, HealthOne in Denver, University Hospital in Denver, Banner Health, which operates in northeastern Colorado and Centura Health, which already has a hospital in the Springs — Penrose-St. Francis Health Systems.

After two years of public meetings, town hall meetings and debate, the task force is currently waiting to receive those RFPs from bidders. We asked Martin to talk about the process so far, and what she expects going forward.

RFPs went out this week. What’s the next step?

The task force will be in a “quiet period” until the due date (November 14) for the bids to be returned. We will reconvene 8-11 a.m. Nov. 18 at City Hall and our first order of business will be to set the process for how we evaluate the bids and reach a decision to pass on to City Council by the end of the year.

The task force is working to schedule a Town Hall meeting in the next few weeks that will provide an opportunity for the public to hear directly from the task force regarding the work we’ve done in preparing the RFP that was sent to bidders on Oct. 18.

Since the beginning, the process has been plagued by controversy and questions — even before you were involved. How do you address the questions that critics have about the process itself?

The conversation on the governance and ownership of MHS has been ongoing for the last two years when the City’s Sustainable Funding Committee recommended to City Council that we take a close look at the ownership and governance of Memorial Health System.

A Citizen’s Commission was appointed by council at that time to study the options. The commission conducted more than 50 publicly open meetings, town hall forums and presentations to community groups. Testimony was obtained from more than 75 community leaders, as well as from the Colorado Attorney General, national experts and leaders from communities who have transitioned their publicly-owned institutions to other forms of ownership and governance.

As a result of the process, the commission unanimously recommended to council in November 2010 that the ownership and governance model be changed from City ownership to a newly formed not-for-profit organization.

The new mayor (Steve Bach) requested Council consider soliciting bids from other entities before moving forward with the lease. Council agreed and appointed additional members to the task force which included members from the local health care community, the Regional Leadership Forum and the mayor. The new task force was tasked by Council with creating an RFP to solicit bids to lease MHS and to make a recommendation to the council by the end of the year.

It’s important to understand the process to understand how we got where we are today. I want to stress that all the work regarding Memorial has been done in public meetings with the citizens and press welcome to attend and there have been many opportunities for the public to ask questions and share their thoughts. In spite of the efforts to make the process open and public, there have been controversy and questions from the beginning.

One of the common questions we hear is, “Why not just leave Memorial as is?” Changes are happening in health care nationally as well as with community owned hospital systems around the country. Just leaving the hospital system as it is today will not serve the future health care needs of our community. Over the two years we’ve been publicly discussing the issue, we’ve seen Memorial begin to struggle with some of the issues that drove the discussions in the first place. Issues such as: how to pay for services for people without insurance, how to remain competitive when you can’t partner with organizations outside the city and how to provide the best health care for our citizens with limited funds. The longer we wait to make a decision, the more limited our options will become to find the best solution for the future of health care with Memorial.

I anticipate the controversy and critiques will continue, but the Task Force is committed to a fair and equal process for all bidders and we plan to meet the deadline of passing a recommendation on to Council by the end of the year.

Transparency and accountability in the RFP process have been a problem for some people. How do you plan to address those concerns?

The Task Force agreed early in the RFP process to hold a very open process. All meetings have been well attended and discussions related to the RFP have been public. Minutes of the meetings as well as all the documents discussed are available on the City’s website at: http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=4103

This is a three-step process with creating the RFP and soliciting bids as step one. The second step will be analyzing the bids and making a recommendation to Council. The third step will include negotiations of a lease with the Council recommendation.

As we begin to enter into the second step of the process of evaluating the bids, the openness of the discussions becomes more difficult for two reasons. First, all the bidders who sign a non-disclosure agreement will be given access to an E-Discovery room that will contain some proprietary information on Memorial Hospital. It will be important as we begin evaluating the bids that we don’t disclose proprietary information that could harm the hospital and its ability to compete in the future. Second, if the city is to negotiate effectively, it is may be important for certain information to be kept confidential so that our bargaining position is not jeopardized by releasing information regarding competing bids. For example, it will be very difficult to negotiate a higher lease payment if all bidders are aware of our top offer. The same is true for other types of commitments. However, keeping the nondisclosure of proprietary information and the effectiveness of our negotiating posture in mind, I believe the task force wants to continue to have the process as open and public as possible.

Any suggestion at this time that the task force will not be open or transparent is premature as no decision will be made until the Nov. 18 meeting as to the process moving forward.

How does the city typically conduct an RFP process? How is this one different?

When the city typically puts out an RFP, at the time the bids are received a committee is convened to evaluate the bids based on the RFP criteria and they select a winner. The committee then announces the winner and releases only the winning bid.

Memorial is different because the City’s RFPs are traditionally for specified services or products vs. a large health care system like Memorial. In essence we are leasing not just assets, but an entire business, while trying to assure that MHS continues as a strong health system able to respond to a very dynamic and challenging health care environment. The public’s interest in the Memorial transaction is much higher than in other bids received by the city because of the potential impact on the future of healthcare in our community.

What is your main goal in leading the task force? What outcome are you seeking?

The discussions on Memorial that have been taking place over the last two years are very important, as the outcome will determine the future of health care in our community for years to come. I have watched the process unfold from the beginning and was a member of the first Mayor’s Task Force that worked on the documents and recommendations that were passed along to the new council.

At one of our first meetings after the new council was elected, the Council agreed to create a task force so the new Council could participate in the work being done and to be brought up to date as quickly as possible on the Memorial issues. I and three other members of Council agreed to serve on the new task force. The other Council members on the task force are Merv Bennett, Tim Leigh and Brandy Williams. At the first meeting I was asked by the task force to be the chair.

The goal of the task force has always been to study options and make a recommendation to City Council. At the Mayor’s request, council agreed to have the task force complete an RFP process for bids to lease Memorial Health System and to bring a recommendation to council.

My main goal today is the same it was when the task force started: To reach a solution that will assure the provision of the highest quality, most accessible health care for our citizens and communities relying upon Memorial It’s my hope that the task force will complete the process in a fair and timely manner and recommend the best option to Council for the future of the Health System.

Some people — even on radio advertisements — claim you have a bias toward current Memorial management’s plan. What do you say to those people?

I had heard stories from other communities who went through a similar process for their locally owned health system that we should be prepared for groups and organizations to try to influence the RFP process through the media. I will admit I was surprised at how quickly it started the day the RFPs went in the mail to the bidders.

I have been on Council for the two years the discussions have been taking place regarding Memorial and I supported the appointment of the commission and the previous council’s decision to pass along a recommendation for Memorial to become a not-for-profit entity. I’m a big supporter of local economic development, and have always believed Memorial has the potential to drive profits and jobs locally.

The sole focus always has, and will continue to be, on what is best for our community. I am confident that we will have multiple options to consider for the future of the hospital and that the process underway will serve the community well as we strive to make a decision on the future of Memorial and I welcome all the options we will be discussing in the coming weeks.

What role will the Regional Leadership Forum play in determining the decision that will be presented to city council?

The members of the task force are:

  • Four Council members plus Randy Purvis from the previous Council
  • Four members from the local healthcare community
  • One member representing UCCS
  • Two members from the Regional Leadership Forum
  • The Mayor has been invited to participate in the process

The task force is made up of people with varying backgrounds who all bring insight into the process. All the members of the task force have worked diligently in our weekly meetings to create the RFP for Memorial. The experience with RFPs and leases the RLF, UCCS and other members of the task force have brought to the discussions has been particularly helpful, but all task force members have actively and equally participated in creating the RFP.

The next phase of the RFP process where we begin to evaluate the bids will continue down the same path with all members equally participating in discussions and the task force as a whole making the final recommendation to Council.

One Response to Martin offers insight into task force’s work

  1. Jan Martin is #1 at keeping the focus on what is best for everyone. Every team needs a good leader and she is one. Good consensus builder with no personal agenda except the common good. Keep it up, Jan. I know it is not easy and is very complicated. Good work!

    Chuck Armstrong
    October 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm