Missouri lawmakers debate blocking KU Health System deal with Liberty Hospital |  KCUR

Missouri lawmakers debate blocking KU Health System deal with Liberty Hospital | KCUR

Liberty Hospital would be at risk of falling into the hands of a for-profit chain and losing important services if Missouri lawmakers block a proposed takeover by the University of Kansas Health System, a board member for the Northland hospital argued last week.

Speaking before a Missouri Senate committee, Liberty Hospital board president Dennis Carter pleaded with lawmakers not to pass legislation aimed at destroying the proposed deal.

Doing so, he said, could result in the public hospital being engulfed by a chain that he fears will close its labor and delivery center and Level II trauma center.

“If we go for-profit, we will be little more than a triage center, but we will not be what Liberty Hospital and the people who voted us into office want us to be,” Carter said.

Liberty’s leadership began looking to another health system in May to form a partnership to help the hospital meet growing demand in the Kansas City suburbs north of the Missouri River. She announced in October that she had chosen the University of Kansas Health System.

But the idea of ​​the Kansas facility taking over a Missouri hospital drew opposition from lawmakers in both states. Kansas Sen. JR Claeys, a Republican from Salina, introduced legislation that would require KU Health System to get legislative approval before investing in an out-of-state facility.

The bill has not yet received a review.

And in Missouri, Sen. Greg Razer, a Democrat from Kansas City, is sponsoring legislation that would bar Missouri hospitals from partnering with an out-of-state health system “operated by an institution of higher education” if a large majority of voters do not approve the agreement. .

Razer said he receives medical care from KU and has no problem with the quality of care the facility provides. He says he opposes the idea of ​​a hospital, governed by a board largely appointed by the governor of Kansas, who runs a Missouri facility.

“Borders are there for a purpose,” Razer said.

Razer also cited Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who recently argued that the proposed deal is not legal without legislative approval. While public subdivisions in Missouri — such as hospital districts or cities — can enter into compacts with subdivisions in other states, Kansas law considers compacts interstate, which require legislative approval, Bailey argued in a letter to Missouri Senate leadership. .

Chuck Hatfield, an attorney representing Liberty, said in an interview that executives had spoken with Bailey and had a “misconception” that the deal would include an interstate compact.

Instead, Hatfield said, the Liberty Hospital District will continue to own the buildings and land as a political subdivision. New Liberty Hospital Corporation, the nonprofit that currently runs the hospital, will add the University of Kansas Health System, also a nonprofit, as a “member,” which will operate the hospital.

“I’m very confident after talking with them that we have or will be able to satisfy all of their concerns,” Hatfield said.

Madeleine Sieren, a spokeswoman for Bailey, said the attorney general’s position had not changed.

In testimony for Razer’s bill, Hatfield said KU would invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” in Liberty. In an interview, he said, those investments are still the subject of negotiations.

When Liberty began looking for a partner, Hatfield said, one of the main issues was the need for capital to upgrade their electronic and IT systems, invest in new equipment and keep up with building maintenance.

Like countless rural hospitals, he said, Liberty can’t find the funding it needs to keep up with the upgrades.

Hatfield noted that he and Razer attended the University of Missouri and “were taught to hate KU.”

“I think a little bit of this is just cross-border xenophobia for lack of a better term,” Hatfield said, “and I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to make health care decisions.”

This story was originally published by Independent Missouri.

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