Pay attention. Be informed. Make a difference. Keep it real.

Thank you to everyone who gave me really insightful feedback regarding your feelings about Memorial Hospital. Now, because you asked: What’s the latest at Memorial Hospital?

I’ve been working diligently to discover the truth of the situation at Memorial Hospital. I have been asking many hard questions; is the hospital in as dire financial-straights as the CEO proclaimed to council on the September 13th. If so, at whose feet does the responsibility lay? Is the current board competent? Should the CEO resign? Is MHS doomed? Is there time to right the ship? These questions and more will be fully vetted and honestly appraised as part of the responses to the RFP process.

As you think about MHS, think about 2 camps; those in the CEO’s camp and all others. The CEO came to his position on a promise that he could lead MHS as it adjusted its operational model and changed its culture to conform to the new healthcare paradigm mandated by federal policy – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The PPACA calls for newly onerous record keeping and billing processes, which frankly, so dramatically increase the cost of owning a private practice that it is more viable for many private practice physicians to become employed by a hospital.

I’ve been told about PPACA mandated changes in Medicare reimbursements (for a typical procedure), where a private practice physician would be paid 23% less than a hospital-employed physician and I’ve read about the instance where physicians are penalized a percentage of their Medicare reimbursement if they don’t “successfully participate” in the newly crafted Medicare Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI). PPACA, PQRI, ABC, XYZ and 123 – really? The point is – the continued layering of the federal health care bureaucracy is driving the situation at MHS.

Many MHS referral physicians claim “MHS employed physicians receive preferential treatment over non-employed physicians.” One specific claim is “the administrative leadership’s not willing to enter referral contracts” which have forced much of the MHS referral base (private practice physicians) to refer patients to competing facilities – Penrose, private surgery centers, etc. I can’t say that’s true or not because I haven’t been in any of those conversations. But, I have heard from several physicians telling the same story and as they say, “A story ‘oft repeated could have substance” or another sanguine saying, “Beware ‘the billowing smoke; you could be on your way to a weenie roast!”

Out of apparent frustration with the administration’s attempt at systemic and cultural change, many physician practices quit making patient referrals to MHS. (When patient referrals drop, so does a hospital’s corresponding income).

I’ve been told that other revealing data points rest in the financial statements which apparently show a sharp decline in the orthopedic, cardiology, oncology, radiology and anesthesiology units, which are big profit centers for a hospital. I was told, (for example), 3 weeks ago the heart-cath lab, which normally performs 12 – 15 procedures on a typical Friday, did none. Insulting our injury, Council was told MHS’s investment portfolio lost $9.2 million in July & August. Really? Neither the city’s Fund, (our city-savings account), or the Colorado Springs Utilities, both whom handle similarly sized investments experienced any investment loss during the same time.

Restating The Big Labousky, “Why are we contemplating a change in the operational model at the hospital?” “Because of federal healthcare mandates.” The next-level question is, “What should that model look like?” That question will be answered by the work of the Task Force and ultimately by the citizens.

The task force is moving swiftly to finalize the Request for Proposals process and qualifications to solicit proposals. The Task Force expects replies from 6 – 13 qualified proposers (non-profit and for-profit). To qualify, a proposer must have experience, financial wherewithal and ability to run a health care system on par or greater in size and scope than MHS.

The real juice on the MHS issue will begin when the proposals begin arriving; and the Task Force remains cognizant of the Commission’s recommendations;

  • Provide world class health care
  • Corporate Headquarters
  • Local Control
  • Entrepreneurial opportunity
  • Indigent care
  • Continue to provide a broad array of community benefits
  • Minimize financial exposure to the citizens

And the Task Force recognizes that some of the Commission’s recommendations are accomplishable and others not depending on the winning (providing there is a winning proposer) proposer’s proposal.

In a perfect world, a group of local, qualified concerned citizens would step-to-the-plate acting as guarantors and stewards for the MHS and would reconstitute the board and leadership team with strong local leaders and nationally recognized industry specific experts so we could accomplish together what we’d all cheer for, the creation of a system that provides world-class health care. The Task Force is committed to an open and fully disclosive process, and that end.

Contact me at Tim@TimLeigh.com or 719-337-9551. You know I love to hear from you. Really.

Pay attention. Be informed. Make a difference. Keep it real.