Aug 2, 2011 6:56 PM by Andy Koen

Deadline for hospital vote approaching

Few hospitals run like Memorial Health System anymore. Three decades ago as many as half of the nation's hospitals were government owned, but today less than 10 percent share that model.

A change in ownership requires voter approval and Colorado Springs City Council will need to move quickly if they're going to put a question on the November ballot. The deadline to recommend a ballot issues is August 23.

Hospital executives would prefer that council give voters a choice this year rather than next because of how quickly the healthcare industry is changing. Chief Strategy Officer Carm Moceri explains that current ownership model keeps them from forming partnerships and joint ventures with doctors and other community groups.

"The change that is happening in our industry and the fact that we are not in the same position as other health systems to create these relationships and partnerships have put us substantially behind where the rest of the industry is," Moceri said.

For the past two years a citizens advisory panel and a pair of joint city/hospital task forces have discussed the issue. Their recommendation, and the plan the hospital and city council members seem to favor most, is to ask voters to turn over management of the hospital to a non-profit organization overseen by a community advisory panel. The city would keep the buildings and land and lease them back to the hospital for a term of 40 years.

"It maintains local decision making, it maintains control, it reinvests 100 percent of the money back into the community and the board is made up of community members of Colorado Springs and El Paso County," Moceri said.

Council President Pro Tempore Jan Martin adds that lease would empower the city could require Memorial to keep indigent care and other programs intact.

"It allows Memorial to continue to provide the same level of services that they have, but at the same time it really frees Memorial to go and create some new partnerships, partnerships with doctors, with other hospitals," Martin said.

But before anything can happen, the hospital needs to reach an agreement over the cost of removing employees from the state's pension program. Memorial has been in discussions with the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) for the past nine months over the cost to take their employees to an alternative retirement plan.


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