by Pam Zubeck
Springs Councilman Sean Paige is at it again, this time railing about uppity city executives lobbying state lawmakers about legislation affecting the city without the Council's permission.
At issue is Memorial Health System CEO Larry McEvoy's lobbying of legislators on an amendment to the Hospital Transfer Act. This pending bill is important, because it would allow the city to spend proceeds from a sale of Memorial on things other than health care. Now, the transfer act clearly restricts the profits to be dedicated solely for health care.
Whether the city will sell the hospital is unclear after a citizen commission last fall recommended it be converted to a nonprofit entity, which requires a vote of the people. Memorial is hoping a ballot measure will be submitted to voters in November.
Recently, Paige wrote to his fellow Council members, saying:
(Sen.) Bill Cadman’s bill amending the Hospital Transfer Act is attached for your review. I think we owe it to the legislators who are working this issue on the public’s behalf to take a position on the measure before this council disbands. I hope you’ll join me in signaling support, since all this bill does, really, is give citizens a greater say in how proceeds from any future sale or compensated transfer of Memorial Health System could be used. As someone who wants to maximize our future options, not limit them, I appreciate the freedom and flexibility this straightforward and common sense amendment will provide.
Amending the HTA in this way is the forward-thinking thing to do, in my view, since we don’t yet know whether a Memorial-related measure will be on the ballot this fall, and we don’t yet know whether it will pass. Going back to the drawing board and reconsidering our options, if it comes to that, will be far easier without an antiquated state law, not written with our situation in mind, dictating what we can and can't do with a city-owned asset. Even those who support the Memorial commission recommendation must recognize the benefit of having all other options available to the citizen-owners of Memorial if the commission’s proposal never makes the ballot or fails to fly with voters.
I think it was suggested at a recent legislative breakfast that city council take a position on this issue, lest the efforts being undertaken by Memorial officials to kill this bill — which apparently had some influence on (Rep.) Amy Stephens — be misconstrued at the Statehouse as the official city position. It certainly isn’t my position, and I’m still a little shocked that Amy would try to sink this very important piece of legislation without first consulting with members of this council.
This change in law does not push us in any particular direction — any future status change for Memorial will be up to voters, as you all know. It simply increases our options moving into an uncertain future, and what could be wrong with that? And we may not have the opportunity to secure that future flexibility again.
Thanks for your time,
In an interview, Paige says, "It hacks me off that Larry (McEvoy) is out there trying to kill a bill that undermines the nonprofit status" the hospital hopes it will achieve in a ballot measure in November.
He also says McEvoy is "completely out of control" and notes "it's ironic" that McEvoy complains that Memorial, because it's owned by the city, is stifled by politics and government oversight, yet he's playing the political game himself without being inhibited by any political influence from the Council, which so far has taken no position on Cadman's bill.
"They're doing what they want," Paige says. "There's no control."
Haven't had enough of Paige? Here's more.
Meantime, the hospital isn't taking Paige's scolding sitting down.
In a statement issued by Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome, the hospital said:
Memorial has shared its concerns with Colorado's legislature for many years through its participation in the Colorado Hospital Association, through our government liaisons John Suits and Nancy Engle, and at times through conversations with senior leaders and board members.
Memorial believes it is important for its legislators to know how their decisions will affect El Paso County's largest health care provider and one of its largest employers. Dr. Larry McEvoy has the support of Memorial's Board of Trustees and was not in violation of any law or protocol, and he was in fact doing nothing new or out of the ordinary for Memorial.
Mr. Paige has made it clear on multiple occasions that he believes Memorial should be silent about its ownership and the issues that would impact it. Memorial respectfully disagrees, as we believe we have a duty to inform our patients, the community, physicians and others on these important issues.