Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture with the largest group practice in Topeka, Kan.
Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. However, Columbia/HCA and Cotton-O'Neil Clinic have agreed to form a new corporation in which each owns an equal stake. Cotton-O'Neil is a primary-care group practice with 74 physicians that includes a surgery center and endoscopy center in Topeka, and clinics in five other Kansas towns.
Columbia/HCA does not own a hospital in Topeka, and a spokesman said the 195-hospital chain is "not in an active dialogue with either facility," said John Leifer, regional vice president in Columbia/HCA's Kansas City, Mo., office. The city's two acute-care hospitals are Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Both are not-for-profit facilities.
However, Columbia/HCA hopes to work with them in the future, Mr. Leifer said, adding, "We would prefer to work collaboratively rather than add facilities in the marketplace."
He added that the Louisville, Ky.-based chain is "very rapidly forming an integrated delivery system in the state of Kansas" and is talking with several hospitals in the western part of the state.
Columbia/HCA owns three hospitals in Kansas-one in the Kansas City area, one in Wichita and one in Dodge City.
In an unrelated announcement, Columbia/HCA said it had hired Frank Houser, M.D., medical director of external operations for the Emory Clinic in Atlanta, to be president of the chain's Georgia division. Dr. Houser will be responsible for the operations of 12 hospitals and 23 outpatient centers in Georgia.
Last month, Emory University broke off negotiations to form an integrated system in Atlanta with Columbia/HCA.