by Pam Zubeck
As the debate heats up over whether city-owned Memorial Health System should be converted to an independent nonprofit agency, it's interesting to know that Penrose-St. Francis Health Services supports the move.
Itself a nonprofit, Penrose-St. Francis issued a statement Wednesday in response to questions posed by the Independent about its position on the issue, which is headed for the April city election ballot.
The commission was spearheaded by objective, community-minded leaders
who put tremendous effort into their work. We believe the process was complete, fair, and appropriate.
Not-for-profit health care has been the foundation of American health care delivery for more than 100 years, and we are proud of our extensive heritage as a community benefit. We believe strongly in not-for-profit healthcare, and support Memorial's attempts to fully retain their charitable community purpose.
It makes sense that Penrose-St. Francis wouldn't want to see Memorial sold to a for-profit agency, because corporate hospitals are notorious for not providing indigent care, or at least not much of it. Memorial has been the target lately of a pitch by for-profit HCA HealthOne of Denver to buy the hospital.
Those who support the proposal to convert Memorial to a nonprofit say if a corporation gets its grubby hands on Memorial, they'll eviscerate programs and take the profits elsewhere, costing the community jobs and a degradation of care. Another casualty could well be indigent care — provided to people who can't afford to pay.
Memorial provided $69.8 million in 2009 in uncompensated care. "That is the cost - not charges -
for charity care, self-pay (bad debt), Colorado Indigent Care Program and Medicaid," Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome said in an e-mail. "I make that distinction, because a number of health systems count
charges, or throw in Medicare figures, which creates an apples-to-oranges comparison."
In 2008 or 2009, an uncompensated care committee did an apples-to-apples comparison of Memorial, Penrose and Peak Vista, Newsome reports, and Memorial tallied $68.5 million in 2008, compared to $28.2 at Penrose.
Chris Valentine, Penrose-St. Francis spokesman, said that system provided $49.9 million in
uncompensated and charity care for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.
Here's a chart showing historic data for Memorial's uncompensated care.