by Pam Zubeck
Memorial Health System spokesman Brian Newsome just released this comment about its PR firm:
A consulting firm hired by Memorial to assist with ownership-related
communications has resigned unexpectedly with the recent emergence of
HealthOne/HCA’s expressed interest in acquiring Memorial.
SE2 has served as advisor/consultant to the Colorado Hospital Association
for years. CHA represents the interests of many Colorado hospitals,
including HealthOne/HCA, which is opposed to the Citizens’ Commission
recommendation to convert Memorial into a community nonprofit and has
expressed interest in acquiring Memorial.
This presents a professional conflict for SE2 relative to its role of
serving the interests of both CHA and Memorial. As a result, SE2 felt the
only appropriate course of action was to resign from Memorial’s
Memorial is appreciative of SE2’s work and will continue to focus on ways
to inform and educate the community about options and implications of an
——— POST, 9:36 A.M., FRIDAY, DEC. 17 ——-
Face The State website is reporting SE2 of Denver has canceled its PR contract with Memorial Health System, citing a conflict of interest due to its association with HCA-HealthOne, a for-profit Denver system that's been making a run at buying the Colorado Springs health system.
HealthONE, the largest health-care system in metro Denver, wants to buy Memorial, an outcome SE2’s marketing campaign was designed to prevent. Because HealthONE is a member of the Colorado Hospital Association, a seven-year client of SE2, the situation became “untenable,” according to SE2’s Eric Sondermann.
“We had to withdraw (from Memorial’s contract),” he said.
The website also quoted Memorial's chief flak saying there were no plans to find another mouthpiece.
Memorial is in the throes of debate over its future ownership and governance. Memorial CEO Larry McEvoy has been trumpeting an independent non-profit status as the perfect plan to help Memorial sustain its provision of uncompensated care while growing into the reaches of southern Colorado.
The City Council and Memorial's board are working on a ballot measure, possibly for the April 5 city election. Voters must approve any change in ownership of the city-owned hospital.
Meantime, Councilman Sean Paige, who promotes Libertarian thought which calls for limited government, is furious over the PR contract and questions whether the city has much say over what Memorial does.
It's interesting that this clear conflict of interest only belatedly became a problem, after the PR contract made the news. I've yet to get any detailed explanation from Memorial about exactly what SE2 was doing for them, and whether he was helping with message massage for staff, the commission, the board or all three, and I'm not happy that everything I know about this situation I've had to learn in press reports. It shows that the enterprise is operating without any meaningful oversight by the city, despite assertions that they're being smothered and constrained by the association. Quite to the contrary, Memorial has pretty much been operating as an island onto itself for years, and doesn't even think it has to answer my questions about what it is doing with this money.