by Pam Zubeck
University of Colorado Health, the city's new partner in Memorial Hospital, is doing some poaching. That comes from UCH CEO Bruce Schroffel in an Independent interview yesterday, less than 24 hours after 83 percent of Springs voters approved leasing Memorial to UCH for 40 years.
The lease pays the city $259 million up front, of which $185 million has been designated as available to pay any liability to the Public Employees Retirement Association on behalf of Memorial's workers, who will shift to UCH's retirement plan. UCH also will pay $5.6 million a year for 30 years, plus an annual margin sharing payment, if there is one.
One of UCH's top focuses here will be recruiting doctors and other staff for Memorial, which has lost a lot of talent in the last couple of years to the Penrose-St. Francis system, owned by nonprofit Centura Health.
"I am concerned about that," Schroffel says. "We are talking to the physicians. A large group of physicians are leaving Penrose; we believe they will sign up with us [Memorial]. We are talking to other physicians.
We think others will come back, and we also will be recruiting. The University of Colorado Health has an incredible record in its ability to attract good physicians from around the U.S. We have a track record that’s pretty hard to beat. We hope to get those back who have left."
Schroffel wouldn't name the doctor group that will reverse course from Penrose and join Memorial, but said to expect an announcement soon.
On another matter, look for official word soon about Memorial's new management team. Will Mike Scialdone stay on as CEO? Scialdone, the former CFO, stepped into the top job a few months ago, when Dr. Larry McEvoy took $1.15 million in severance pay and left.
"We’re literally making that assessment now," Schroffel said of the management team. "I expect to have an answer over the next two to four weeks. I believe in local control. We want to have a CEO to make major decisions in Colorado Springs."
The UCH team is eager to whip Memorial into shape so that the entire system is prepared as the health care industry puts the squeeze on providers, he says.
"There’s going to be less resources for us," he says. "We’ve got to be more efficient. The goal is to raise the bar qualitatively and lower costs."
One way is to install the same electronic medical records system, called EPIC, in all of the UCH properties, which Schroffel says will save $35 million compared to installing separate system.
Although UCH has brought some other hospitals under its wing, Memorial is the big kahuna.
Here's what he had to say about it:
"We want to focus on Memorial more than anything. We’re taking on a big responsibility and significant risks, and it’s a very difficult time for the hospital the last three to four years. We think the physicians and staff are excited about us being there. We want to put most of our energy there. I'll be spending a couple days a week in Colorado Springs at a very minimum as we communicate with physicians and the community and really raise the bar down there — not that it’s really that low down there. We think that hospital is an excellent hospital and has potential to be great.
"Our board is very concerned about taking on too much at one time. Memorial is really big. Nothing is more important than Memorial. We’re fully at risk to make this work from a qualitative perspective.
"We feel like we’ve gotten a strong endosement from Colorado Springs and now we want to deliver.
We feel we can deliver. The whole country is looking at us. We pride ourselves on quality. We sincerely do. We want to make that consistent, so that you can walk into Memorial, University Hospital or Poudre Valley Hospital [Fort Collins], and it feels the same and the quality and service are the same."
As for charges, Schroffel predicts rates will decline, not only at Memorial but everywhere, because "that's the reality of health care in America. The country is challenged, and we want to make sure we provide a quality service at a lower cost."
While Schroffel identified the integration of Memorial as UCH's chief focus, the nonprofit is still casting its net to other players.
It's negotiating a management agreement with Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie, Wyo., after the board of directors issued a request for proposals earlier this year.
"We have signed a letter of intent. They chose us for a management contract. We will be managing that hospital with their existing team and taking advantage of our excellence in quality," Schroffel says.
Poudre Valley Health System secured a management of agreement with the Sidney Regional Medical Center in western Nebraska before the Memorial lease was worked out, he says, adding, "There's a lot of people we're talking to, frankly."