UCH makes right move with Memorial

As the moment nears when Colorado Springs officially gives up control over Memorial Health System, with University of Colorado Health taking over at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1, the city has much reason to feel encouraged — and relieved.

So many times in the past few years, the future of Memorial appeared shaky at best, and in truth it was legitimately endangered on several occasions. The hospital’s business numbers faltered, key people made judgment errors, staff morale deteriorated to scary depths, public confidence slipped badly, and at times one had to wonder in all honesty whether Memorial as we’ve known it would survive.

We’re beyond that now. As you can read elsewhere in this issue, Memorial already has seen some early benefits from its association with UCH. Memorial’s credit rating, which had gone downhill the past few years, has rebounded. The issue of settling matters with the Public Employees’ Retirement Association remains on the table, but the two sides appear willing to deal with each other in person, not in court.

Another positive development came this week as UCH announced that Memorial’s interim CEO, Mike Scialdone, would become the permanent local CEO. This removes any concern that a newcomer might swoop in with different ideas, no allegiances to the city and no relationships with staff.

Scialdone, despite the fact he was hired at Memorial in 2008 by much-maligned former CEO Dr. Larry McEvoy, has survived the system’s troubles with his own credibility, stature and staff-wide support fully intact. Not only that, but in his role as chief financial officer, Scialdone kept Memorial’s bottom line as stable as possible.

If you’ve watched City Council for the past four years, in person or on TV, you likely have seen Scialdone in action. Every month, Memorial execs would come to City Council with their scheduled report. For a good while, McEvoy was the presenter, but invariably the followup questions would bring Scialdone to the microphone.

Later, as McEvoy’s relationship with Council became more tenuous (in direct relation to Memorial’s uncertain fate), Scialdone became more prominent. And while others might be defensive or unsteady facing the city’s elected leaders, Scialdone’s calm, assured manner earned their respect. He might be built like a linebacker, and he does come from the East Coast (actually Long Island), but that doesn’t make the 47-year-old an intimidating stereotype.

Counting his first job here at Penrose-St. Francis, Scialdone now has spent seven years in Colorado Springs with his wife and three children. That’s another positive. He’s been involved, too, serving on the board and as board chairman for the SET Family Medical Clinics.

Obviously, he’ll have to wear several hats now, running the Memorial ship while building rapport with the UCH hierarchy and having a community presence. We won’t be surprised if he still takes the time to visit City Council with more updates of Memorial’s progress.

We wish Mike Scialdone the best in his leadership role, and we applaud University of Colorado Health for recognizing him as the right person for the challenge of making this new lease work for years to come. UCH couldn’t have sent Colorado Springs a better signal than that.