by Pam Zubeck
Springs Council member Sean Paige is on the rampage against city-owned Memorial Health System's promotion of a possible April 5 ballot measure that would ask voters permission to convert Memorial to a nonprofit agency.
First, he complained that two ads ran in The Gazette, costing $16,500, earlier this month. Then he noted the Future of Health Care blog Memorial has been doing for months has a prominent feature called "Our Point of View: The case to convert Memorial to a community-based nonprofit."
"It seems like another case in which the health system is blurring the line between public information and public indoctrination. It's not the blog itself, but it's obviously self-serving content, that crosses the line, in my opinion," he says in an e-mail to us." It's a widely-accepted precept, at all levels of government, and that includes city enterprises, that public money should not be used for lobbying, politicking or self-serving advocacy activities, but there's a tendency among certain city leaders to tolerate violations of the rules as long as they agree with the agenda being pushed."
He also says City Attorney Patricia Kelly has "helped facilitate this" by identifying legal defenses for such activities.
Paige says as an outsider, such fudging the lines always bothered him; now that he's a Council member, "I now have an opportunity to speak up about his, with a louder voice, so I am."
By the way, the law specifies that no public money shall be spent to campaign for or against any ballot issue. So far, the Memorial matter is not a ballot issue, so Memorial isn't breaking any laws. Jan. 25 is the deadline for mounting a ballot measure. After that, using city resources to campaign would become illegal.
Paige, not too long after sending that message, had another bee in his bonnet. This time, it was about an article published in a Memorial magazine about CEO Larry McEvoy, who is strongly in favor of the switch to a nonprofit.
The article, written by a Memorial employee, is called "Change for the better" and features photos of McEvoy with his horses, "in cowboy hat and flannel shirt, looking like the Marlboro man," Paige says.
"Check out the latest edition of the "Peak Living" magazine if you get a chance," Paige writes, "which has a 5 page spread (in a 15 page publication) devoted to Larry and his grand vision for Memorial. Haven't yet had a chance to read, or judge the spin content, of the piece, but this is beginning to take on the look of a personality cult, since he, not the board or the commission, is obviously the driving force behind this effort. Not sure what this piece cost, but I would put it into the category of publicly-funded propaganda."
Here's what Memorial's spokeswoman Cari Davis said:
As we've said before, we feel that it is entirely appropriate to share our
point of view with the community, just as Penrose, CSHP, Mountain View
Medical Group and others have done. Further, we believe that communicating
our perspective is the ethically responsible thing to do for patients and
Peak Living has told our organization's important stories for several
years. Now facing one of the most important moments in Memorial's history,
we felt it would be appropriate to address the future ownership topic in a
Peak Living article. Memorial is financially supported by patient
revenues, not local tax revenues, and we believe it is in the best
interest of our patients to be informed and educated on Memorial's
As much as some people may want to politicize this issue, accuse us of
propagandizing or use the press to divert attention from the core issue at
hand—building better health care—we must remain focused on what's best
for patients and this community. Those we serve deserve to know where we
stand and why, just like they deserve to know where others stand on this
issue and why.
A doctor would not be accused of propagandizing by explaining treatment
options to his or her patient and recommending what he or she thinks would
be best. You—the patients, neighbors and community we serve—are our
patient, and you have a right to know the options ahead, and what this
provider thinks would be best.