Council to vote on UCH proposal tomorrow

The proposal to allow University of Colorado Hospital to lease Memorial Health System is one step closer to reality after today’s informal City Council meeting.

The council decided to vote on the issue during tomorrow’s formal  meeting for an official vote, including a separate vote about setting up a committee for the lease negotiations.

The decision came with few questions from Councilmembers. Mostly, the questions concerned Memorial’s Children’s Hospital and the new medical school.

Council members were assured that the proposal provided the funding for the medical school, and that allowed the process to start once a lease is signed. From there, it takes about 18 months for the educational accrediting body for medical schools to finish the process.

“We expect that we’ll be able to expand Beth-El Nursing School and what it offers once this lease is in place,” said Pam Shockley-Zalabak, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “Not only will it allow us to expand undergraduate programs, but sub-specialties and allied health.”

The children’s hospital at Memorial will become partners with the Colorado Children’s Hospital, and will sub-lease space from the new organization.

“We are committed to this,” said Bruce Schroeffel. “We have a long-standing relationship with Children’s and while they aren’t a partner in this lease, we know that they will bring the capacity to expand and grow pediatrics for this community.”

Shockley-Zalabak was one of several people who spoke on behalf of the proposal. Kyle Hybl, chairman of the board of regents for the University of Colorado, said his board – and 21 members of his family living in Colorado Springs – was in favor of the lease.

“This proposal comes from a group of organizations with the capability and accountability to serve this community well in the future,” he said. “There are so many possibilities: tech transfer, jobs, research. I am filled with great pride bringing this forward, not just from the university’s standpoint, but from the community’s standpoint.”

Phil Lane, chairman of the Regional Leadership Forum, gave the economics argument for the proposal. Among them: the lease brings $1.2 billion in capital over 40 years, and provides profit sharing. It also provides an opportunity for research and a resolution to the Public Employees Retirement Association problem.

PERA says it could cost as much as $191 million for Memorial employees to leave PERA, but Lane said the university’s proposal might mean that some employees could stay in PERA.

“I’m not saying that it’ll go that way, but it could,” he said.

The City Council will vote on the resolution at tomorrow’s formal meeting, and will plan to name members of the lease negotiating committee in two weeks.