UCH to Memorial workers: We're taking over Oct. 1


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Colorado Springs Memorial Health System

The University of Colorado Health System will take over city-owned Memorial Health System on Oct. 1, if voters approve of a lease at an Aug. 28 special election, the head of UCH told about 125 Memorial employees today.

Bruce Schroffel, CEO of University of Colorado Health, met today with the employees in the Cuchara Room in the Memorial building on east Pikes Peak Avenue (the old Montgomery Ward building) during a routine senior leaders meeting with workers.

According to internal live-blogging by Memorial communications specialist Brian Newsome, Schroffel reported the lease is in its final stages, or down to the "last sentences."

"He said it is not all that different than what was in the original proposal, but now it is a 100-page document full of legalese," Newsome reported. "He said we've come to agreement and both parties are happy."

University of Colorado Health System
  • Schroffel: PERA will be history.

Schroffel predicted that Colorado Springs City Council would review the lease later this month and possibly approve it June 26. UCH would sign it the following day.

Here are the highlights of Schroffel's remarks:

• UCH is putting together a "vote yes" campaign to communicate with the public.

(It's unclear if the campaign-financing filing by an organization calling itself "Great City. Great Care," filed May 14, is the campaign committee Schroffel was referring to. The filing says that committee will work to support the lease of Memorial.)

"Bruce says they are taking a proactive approach," Newsome wrote. "There is a campaign that will roll out over the next several weeks. There are well-known citizens who are very supportive of this."

Quoting Schroffel: "We're prepared to educate the community."

• If voters approve the lease, Memorial workers would become UCH employees Oct. 1, but it's unclear exactly what their benefits would look like.

UCH's proposal said it wouldn't lay off anyone for six months after the lease became effective, and today Schroffel reportedly said, "there won't be thousands of jobs moving to Denver."

• "[Schroffel] said Memorial's financials and quality are concerns," Newsome wrote. "There is a lot to do in a very short time. He said he recognizes this is an anxiety-inducing time, but the intent is to grow this organization."

Newsome then noted that Memorial's acting CEO had a couple things to say.

"Mike Scialdone is now asking how many people think taking an overarching governing body about politics and giving it to one about health care is a good thing. Big show of hands."

Memorial Health System Colorado Springs
  • Scialdone: Keep your chin up.

Quoting Scialdone, Newsome wrote, "If you look at UCH and its ability to do that, it is phenomenal, he says. This is turning a page and really embracing something in which we align with organizations of like mind, around quality, and taking this out of politics."

• Schroffel also told employees, "You will not have PERA. You know that." The Public Employees Retirement Association covers all city employees, including those at Memorial, but UCH is working a deal to leave PERA and replace it with another retirement system that won't be "as rich" as PERA but would be comparable to others in the UCH system and a better plan than those offered by Centura Health and HCA, a for-profit conglomerate that unsuccessfully bid on Memorial.

Quoting Schroffel, Newsome wrote, "There will be about 15k employees in the new system, so it is a 'big, big' decision. 'PERA is in trouble,' he says. 'It is not a sustainable model in this country, I think.'"

• Schroffel noted the new Memorial board will have 11 members, at least seven from the community.

There also was talk that morale at Memorial is low, but Scialdone reportedly told employees, "You can sit idly by and cast stones, or you can do something about it and get engaged."

Scialdone also reported that Memorial's first-quarter results were "solid," but workers shouldn't slack off. He also noted that reports that there had been no raises is false, and that in 2011 alone, more than $10 million in pay increases was given. He also noted a salary survey is under way to assure employees are paid fairly.

Newsome also reported that Tracy Narvet, controller, gave a financial update. Volumes are low, but Memorial has offset that by managing costs. She also said inpatient volumes are down, but ER visits are up.

"Mike Scialdone gives a big thank you to everyone for the work you've done to strengthen our operations," the blog reports. "When it comes to stewardship, he says, any area in which we are not being effective and efficient is an opportunity cost to do something with those dollars (people, community health, equipment, etc.) Mike says the balance sheet is in the best shape its been in the last couple of years, but he also notes that the first quarter is typically the strongest. We must continue to be vigilent [sic] about being good stewards of our resources."

To read the entire blog, go here.


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