Editorial: Another major reason to like Memorial-UCH lease deal

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For the past week, we’ve listened as all sides have talked about what to do with the city’s windfall that would come from the negotiated 40-year lease of Memorial Health System to the University of Colorado Health.

Almost everyone has fixated on the money — starting with that $74 million up-front payment from UCH, then moving on to the monthly dispensations thereafter, expected to total $5.6 million a year.

Granted, that money is, and will be, hugely important. Planning a foundation to take good care of it and putting the right people in place to oversee the operation probably will be the deciding factor for whether Colorado Springs voters approve the lease in a special mail election, ending Aug. 28.

But we also need to remember that the Memorial lease agreement isn’t just about money.

Obviously the first benefit is having a proven entity like UCH taking over Memorial and stabilizing what has been a turbulent, even traumatic, ordeal for the city-owned hospital and especially its staff of more than 4,000 employees. Memorial, or whatever it eventually is called as part of UCH’s widening kingdom, should become the biggest player in health care for all of Southern Colorado for decades to come.

Beyond that, though, there’s another tremendous bonus. Our city will be getting a branch campus of the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine, tied directly to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. That means Memorial will become a teaching hospital, with millions of new dollars flowing in to develop the branch campus, starting with UCH’s commitment to invest at least $3 million a year for the life of the lease.

Down the line, that means many physicians and specialists will train in Colorado Springs and hopefully decide to stay and live here. Having that School of Medicine presence, along with UCCS’ already well-established reputation as a research university, should become a separate boon for the area, our economy and quality of life.

Who knows, perhaps the School of Medicine also might create a pathway for another long-desired local goal: working with the U.S. Olympic Committee to make Colorado Springs a national — if not global — mecca for sports medicine.

That might be a little further down the road, but then again, perhaps not.

Late last year, UCCS announced plans for an academic health sciences complex, to be called the Lane Center with the family of John E. and Margaret L. Lane as the initial benefactor. That facility was planned with the hope for a School of Medicine connection, and it should be open by early 2014. Now, the pieces are falling into place.

Once the city’s residents understand all that, it’s hard to imagine them saying no.