Mike Scialdone is eager to get off on the right foot. So he gave interviews to three newspapers today, the Independent included, a day after being named CEO of Memorial Health System.
Bruce Schroffel, CEO of Memorial's new partner, the University of Colorado Health, made the appointment. Scialdone has been holding things together as Memorial's interim CEO since Larry McEvoy bolted in May with a $1.15 million severance package.
Scialdone has been with Memorial for about four years and also worked for the Penrose-St. Francis system and private hospital giant HCA.
Scialdone wouldn't divulge his salary as CEO. As interim CEO, he was paid $477,600, quite a bit less than McEvoy's annual pay of $670,009.
But Scialdone clearly didn't want to focus on that. He wanted to talk about teaming up with a nationally acclaimed health system, UCH (and its partner, Poudre Valley Health System of Fort Collins).
The city closes the 40-year lease with UCH on Monday, giving UCH broad control over Memorial facilities and services in exchange for $259 million up front and $5.6 million annually for 30 years.
In recent weeks, UCH issued $300 million in bonds, Scialdone said, to help fund the transaction and put Memorial on solid financial footing. The rating agencies had good things to say about UCH, he said, noting that the lease would end the uncertainty for Memorial, which led one rating agency to downgrade Memorial's
rating outlook from stable to negative last spring.
"The opportunity to put the ownership and governance issue to bed in such a way with support from the community is an exciting opportunity, not only for Memorial but for Colorado Springs in general," he said. "There’s been so much noise, so many agendas that played in and around what was going on at Memorial, the understanding and communication of what and who we are got a little bit lost."
Scialdone, who has served as Memorial's chief financial officer, reiterated numerous times during our interview that Memorial's and UCH's commitment is to make sure staff and physicians "honor patients" by providing the best health care available.
Scialdone, who reports to Schroffel rather than the Memorial board, said he will work with UCH officials in selecting his executive team, which will include a chief financial officer, nursing officer, operating officer and medical officer. He intimated he plans to make those selections "with the least turnover possible."
After Springs voters approved the lease by a margin of 83 percent to 17 percent on August 28, Schroffel said he anticipated announcing a doctor group had agreed to return to Memorial but he wouldn't name the group.
Neither will Scialdone. But he did say, "We're having a lot of very good conversations," and added that both the election outcome and next week's deal closure are "going to be very important in showing the parties we’re talking to that we are a stable organization whose organization and governance isn’t a question any more."
He also said that the "productive path" of discussions has involved "a number of groups of physicians" that he hopes will finalize agreements with Memorial within two months.
"This is a tremendous opportunity," he said of the partnership the lease puts into place. "There’s a definite difference when you’re part of a system rather than a standalone facility."
Asked to describe his biggest challenge ahead, he said, "I think health care in general is a huge challenge when you look at uncertainty on the horizon. ... But at the end of the day, despite all that's going on, the challenge is to honor the trust patients put in us for care. If you look at health care and how many different factors impact that industry, the biggest challenge in health care is never losing sight of the fact when patients come to us, they are putting a tremendous amount of trust in us. Despite all the uncertainty, we never lose sight of that."