Wednesday, January 13, 2016



long ago and far away,
i was there, and still remember
it seems like only yesterday
with time as history's teacher
at least once every single day
i think of him and wonder

what would ted do?

Panel will see

by Amy Fletcher  

Whether Colorado Springs should continue to own Memorial Hospital and how the hospital should be governed will be the focus of a work group appointed by Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace and hospital board chairman Harlan Loomas.

The plan, announced Tuesday at a joint meeting between the hospital board and City Council, may eventually offer a definitive answer to an ongoing political dilemma: What role should the city play regarding one of its largest hospitals? City ownership of Memorial - debated on and off for years - resurfaced as an issue in mayoral elections earlier this year.

Deciding who governs and runs the hospital is "part of keeping the hospital in a position where it can provide services without tapping into the general funds of the city," Makepeace said Tuesday.
Memorial made $19 million last year and expects to turn an $11 million profit this year.

The City Council and hospital board are making long-term strategic plans in the face of a changing industry. Experts expect hospitals nationwide to face future fiscal challenges as payments from the federal government decline and managed-care health insurance plans become more popular.

"You generally want issues that are long-term and more complex to be made close to, but outside, the political system," said consultant Michael Annison, who is helping the hospital develop its strategic plan. The public sector tends to use "piecemeal approaches" said Annison, president of The Westrend Group in Denver.

Hospital Executive Director Bob Peters said shedding city ownership would allow Memorial to "conduct some affairs in privacy and in a responsible manner."

But Councilman Ted Eastburn said Memorial's continued profitability while other hospitals around the country are losing millions is a testament to how well the system is working.
"I would have to see completely new, and at this point unimaginable data, to convince me to support transfer of ownership," he said.
Annison said the community's desire to retain local control of the facility makes any sale to a for-profit entity, as proposed during the election, less desirable. Other possibilities for making the hospital more autonomous include creating a nonprofit organization or a hospital authority that could collect taxes.

Councilman and hospital board member Lionel Rivera said he would support City Council serving as the hospital's board of directors as it does for Colorado Springs Utilities. In that role, the council sets utilities rates, approves budgets and makes other major decisions on the direction of Springs Utilities.

Councilwoman Joanne Colt said reducing the city's oversight of the hospital might be appropriate.

"There may be some conflicting goals, and we need to examine it," she said.

Councilman Richard Skorman agreed: "The hospital should be independent enough not to be subjected to political whims that affect its financial viability."

The work group appointed by Makepeace and Loomas will be expected to report back to the hospital board and City Council by March 1.

- Amy Fletcher may be reached at 636-0190 or
Edited by David Fondler.
Headline by Barry Noreen

Hospital Issues:  Developing a long-term strategic plan for Memorial Hospital, which is owned by the city.  Memorial's profits this year are expected to drop to $11 million from $19 million last year.

Alternatives:  Changes to the ownership structure of the hospital.

What's Next:  Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace and hospital board chairman Harlan Loomis to develop a long-term Memorial strategic plan.  Working group to report back to the hospital board and City Council by March 1.

-The Gazette


Memorial Hospital is clearly one of the city's largest assets. Yet ongoing city ownership - and the possible sale of the hospital has been an issue from outside and within City Hall.

June, 1999: Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services offers to purchase the hospital for $225 million. The conversations have been brief: No thanks, the council says. "What a laugh. What a joke," Councilman Lionel Rivera said. "I don't think the hospital is for sale," Rivera said.

Spring, 1999: Mayoral candidate Will Perkins makes the sale of certain city assets, including the hospital, a campaign issue. "We need to remember what the main function of city government is: public safety and infrastructure," Perkins said.

October, 1998: Council members Dawson Hubert and Bill Guman propose two ballot measures. The first would ask voters in April whether the city should sell the hospital. The second would determine whether to replace the 15-member hospital board of trustees with the City Council. At the same time, Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace planned to appoint a nine-member Blue Ribbon Commission to look into ongoing city hospital ownership.

December, 1997: City Councilman Lionel Rivera proposed that the profitable hospital to make a $30 million endowment to establish a foundation that would issue grants to human-services agencies that focus on health, the elderly and youth.

April, 1996: Memorial Hospital trustees reject an offer for either a joint venture or acquisition by Louisville, Ky.-based Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., the nation's largest hospital chain. Memorial's trustees rejected all alternatives, saying none would expand the hospital's services or improve patient care.

January, 1993: The council rejects a request by Councilman David White, who wanted a question on the municipal ballot that would have asked city voters whether they wanted to sell Memorial. The city has operated the hospital since the 1940s. White argued that the city should concentrate on basic services such as police and fire protection - and leave health care to the private sector.

- Gazette archives

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