A Kansas City, Mo.-area hospital has signed over to Health Midwest the right to match any offer to buy or lease the facility.
The agreement is the key portion of a three-year affiliation announced by the two providers late last month. It gives Health Midwest 90 days to equal any offer made for 324-bed North Kansas City (Mo.) Hospital, which now is owned by the city.
The hospital's board has vowed that it's not up for sale or lease. Two years ago, however, it was approached by Columbia Healthcare Corp. about a possible acquisition, said Yvonne Seckington, a hospital spokeswoman. Rumors have abounded since.
"What we're trying to do is tell people that they might be spending their money better looking at other facilities," she said. "Every time a rumor's out, it has an incredibly destabilizing effect on our employees and physicians."
Under the affiliation, North Kansas City and Health Midwest also will cooperate on medical education programs. The transaction did not involve an exchange of cash or financial considerations, spokesmen said.
Their deal-and its "right of first refusal" clause-is set against a background in which Louisville, Ky.-based Columbia has been trying to expand in the Kansas City market. With equal aggression, Kansas City, Mo.-based Health Midwest has been merging and affiliating with other area providers.
The "first refusal" clause means little in practice, said David Vandewater, Columbia's chief operating officer. If Health Midwest does try to acquire North Kansas City, it could run into troubles with antitrust law, Mr. Vandewater contended.
Earlier this month, Columbia completed its acquisition of 266-bed Independence (Mo.) Regional Health Center, its second hospital in the area. Meanwhile, Health Midwest announced plans to merge with Park Lane Medical Center, a 75-bed osteopathic hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Park Lane said its 1993 profits were $927,000 on net patient revenues of $26.2 million.
The deal will give Health Midwest 13 hospitals and 1,864 staffed beds. Its market share, now 25% in the 10-county Kansas City area, should not change noticeably, Health Midwest said.