by Pam Zubeck
This from UCH's communications department:
"I think Bruce [Schroffel] misspoke tonight about the MHS signs. New signs went up tonight at both Memorial and Memorial North."
————— ORIGINAL POST, TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 9:28 P.M. —————
Calling the 83-percent "yes" vote to lease city-owned Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health a mandate, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said today's vote marked a watershed moment in the city's history.
The hospital, purchased by the city in 1943, will become the "southern flagship" in UCH's mega-health care system, UCH CEO Bruch Schroffel said during remarks at City Hall tonight.
Pam Schockley-Zalaback, chancellor at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which will host a branch medical school as part of the lease, told the Indy, "I think the community really gets it. This moves us forward together with investment in the future. It's good for education. It's good for health care, and I think the community came together."
Kyle Hybl, a member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, was equally thrilled with the overwhelming support the lease got from 34 percent of the city's 176,556 registered voters.
"I'm truly pleased to know that Colorado Springs voted for a strong academic future, a strong health care future for our community and a strong economic future for our community," Hybl said in an interview.
City officials said 72,205 voters, or 41 percent, cast ballots. The unofficial tally: 59,820 yes; 12,298 no.
During brief remarks outside the City Administration Building, Bach reminded the small crowd on hand that a year ago the City Council was on the verge of turning Memorial over to a management group headed by Dr. Larry McEvoy, who left in May as CEO after the former Memorial board gave him a $1.15 million severance package.
But Bach and his cronies stepped in and demanded a competitive process, which yielded the 40-year lease agreement with UCH.
"There are few times when we have defining turning points," he said. "We're on the doorstep now of a wonderful future."
Bach used the moment to call for similar types of analysis be applied to "all the city's enterprises," and said the overwhelming vote indicates that voters trust the city.
Asked how the dispute with the Public Employees Retirement Association over Memorial employees' pensions will affect the transfer to UCH, Bach dodged the question, reiterating the city's position that the city owes PERA nothing. PERA, of course, disagrees, and a lawsuit will decide the question, as we reported here.
At a news conference a block away at City Hall, Schroffel said he was "ecstatic" at the outcome and said the historic vote will assure Memorial serves Springs residents for generations to come.
UCH President Rulon Stacey said UCH will leverage the strength of community health care and academic medicine to bring higher quality care to the region. He predicted the cost of care throughout the UCH system will go down because of the health care powerhouse's ability to collaborate and cooperate.
"We will waste no time to earn your trust and prove you have made a truly great decision," he said.
City Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, who managed a contentious task force to a unanimous recommendation to City Council to choose UCH, credited everyone involved, saying, "We are here tonight because we all worked together. I'm really pleased to be standing here with our new partners in Memorial Hospital."
Asked what the first visible effect will be of today's vote, Schroffel said, "The first thing we want to do is build morale, build a team of physicians and staff at Memorial, and rebuild the place, which is already a strong hospital, raise the bar for quality of health care."
He said new signs won't be mounted at Memorial until the lease becomes effective Oct. 1.
The deal gives the city a $74 million upfront payment, plus $5.6 million per year for 30 years, along with $3 million a year for 40 years to UCCS for the med school. In addition, UCH will provide $185 million for the city to settle with PERA. If it takes less than that, the city keeps the difference; if it costs more, the city will have to dip into its other payments to make it up.
One reporter asked about whether people will be laid off after the six-month guarantee stated in the lease, a matter covered in our story reported weeks ago, which can be found here.
He noted UCH has added 800 jobs in the last five years, and Poudre Valley Health System has added about 1,200; there are no plans for layoffs, he said.