Memorial lease benefits students, too

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In the continuing back-and-forth conversation over the future of Memorial Health System, there are a number of organizations that will undoubtedly be affected by the Colorado Springs voters’ final decision. These include our many nonprofit medical providers, our urgent-care facilities and Memorial itself.

But what about those schools of medical education that are pumping new minds and ideas into our community’s health care infrastructure?

They should not be lost in the noise of this debate. The future of our city may just depend on them.

Under the current proposal, the University of Colorado Health will lease Memorial Health System for 40 years. This includes $74 million to our community in the very beginning with a revenue stream of about $5.6 million every year into the city coffers.

And while additional revenue to the city is always nice to hear, especially in this fractured economic environment, we must also keep in mind the long-term benefits that will come to our community and, arguably, southern Colorado.

That future runs right past Austin Bluffs through the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

In representing the approximately 10,000 students attending UCCS, with an expected record enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year, I’ve had an opportunity to speak with many of our students on Memorial’s future.

They are excited to know that Proposition 1A would have a direct benefit to them. As part of that lease agreement with University of Colorado Health and its partner, Poudre Valley Health Network, we will see an annex to the University of Colorado-Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus come right here to our school.

This annex will open up southern Colorado to an exciting prospect: the education of our area’s future health care providers, right in our own backyard.

The enrollment of students today into a new school of medicine means these students will be able to perform their residency requirements locally within the Memorial system. And then, the likelihood they will network within our Colorado Springs or even southern Colorado medical communities means keeping the results of that top-notch education right here in our community.

And don’t forget about the possibility of new research and development dollars flowing into UCCS’ new medical apparatus. Without a doubt, Proposition 1A is a complete win-win for all.

This opportunity could not have come at a better time. During a visit to UCCS by Mayor Steve Bach (a 1968 graduate of the university) earlier this year, he spoke about one of the widely unknown challenges facing both Colorado Springs and the state as whole.

We are seeing an influx of retirees who wish to call the West their new home. And with our fresh air, pristine mountains and friendly neighborhoods, retirees are looking to Colorado Springs.

By the same token, we’re losing younger people. The mayor said that “people ages 25 to 44 are declining in our city … that age group is 25 percent of the population. It should be 31 percent or more.” It doesn’t take one of our UCCS School of Engineering grads to crunch those numbers: With more retirees, our health care infrastructure will be stressed, which means we need these new providers. And a UCCS branch of the School of Medicine could accommodate that need.

Representing Colorado Springs’ true hometown university, I join the thousands of students at UCCS in urging Colorado Springs voters to vote “yes” on Proposition 1A.

Give our school a new and exciting growth opportunity. A yes vote will bring more economic impact from CU to our community with new jobs in a school of medicine. Most of all, put our school on a fascinating, new path to the future that will make us a shining example of a true, beneficial private-public partnership.

Now that’s a no-brainer.

Class dismissed.

Stephen J. Collier is president of UCCS student government for the 2012-2013 academic year.