by Pam Zubeck
After much pressure applied by this publication, Memorial Health System employees and residents of the community, the City Council task force on MHS has agreed to abide by the state's open meetings law.
The first step toward that is to have all members, including representatives from the Regional Leadership Forum and Mayor Steve Bach, officially appointed as members.
That will happen at 1 p.m. Wednesday at a special Council meeting preceding the Utilities Board, which is comprised of council members. At that meeting, the following people will be appointed:
Council members Jan Martin, Brandy Williams, Tim Leigh and Merv Bennett; Leadership Forum reps Doug Quimby and Phil Lane (Chris Jenkins will not be appointed at his request); Bach and his Economic Vitality specialist Donna Nelson; former Councilor and Memorial trustee Randy Purvis; Dr. David Corry, surgeon at Memorial; Memorial RN Carolyn Flynn; Healthsouth CEO Steve Schaefer; Dr. David Steinbruner, ER doc at Memorial; UCCS chief of strategic planning Charlie Sweet, and Peak Vista doc Dr. Michael Welch.
"Because we are formally appointed, this will mean we all must follow the open meeting law," Martin told the task force.
The panel then was introduced to Michael Anthony of McDermott Will & Emery law firm based in Chicago, who will serve as the task force consultant to draft a request for proposals that will go out in mid-October. He said bidders will be given three weeks to respond. A finalist will be chosen by Dec. 31, and the lease agreement will be submitted to voters for approval in early 2012.
The Council will approve funding for Anthony's engagement, capped at $150,000, also on Wednesday before the Utilities Board meeting. That expense will be reimbursed to the city by whoever wins the bid to run Memorial.
No decisions were made about what values will be incorporated into the RFP. That discussion will begin next Friday, Martin said.
Among those, Anthony said:
— How much money will be sought for leasing Memorial.
— Whether the lessee will be expected to assume liabilities incurred prior to the lease, such as adjusted Medicare reimbursements and a payment to the Public Employees Retirement Association for employee pensions.
— How long the lease will last, and reversion to the city at the end of the term.
— Bond payoff.
— Who will comprise the local board, or even if there is a local board.
— Capital investment requirements.
— What patient services will be required. "We certainly don't want any less service, do we?" Martin said.
— Service area.
— How much charity care will be required, if any.
— Requirements for reporting to the community annually on operations and financial status.
During a discussion of the task force, Corry noted the city will still own the health system and also its mission, so he said he felt having local control on the board will be important.
However, some hospital giants have headquarters and boards located elsewhere, Anthony said, although they might be willing to have a community board, as long as certain financial decisions are reserved for the operator, not the board.
"If we put those requirements in an RFP (for a local board), nobody else would bid," Martin said. "I hope Memorial will still make their case for their approach to local management and partnerships that are so valuable. Memorial has a very important relationship with our community. Memorial through their bid has to explain why these relationships are important."