Mid-America Health First, a group of Kansas City-area hospitals that's been trying to come together since early 1994, expects to announce its final shape and business strategy in early June.
The group has fallen behind in its organizational planning and has been hindered by changes in strategy ordained by hospital sponsors.
Mid-America Health First hospitals ring the city in Missouri and Kansas. The group includes Saint Joseph Health Center, Kansas City, Mo.; Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Shawnee, Kan.; Bethany Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.; Liberty (Mo.) Hospital; St. Mary's Hospital of Blue Springs (Mo.); Saint Luke's Northland Hospital, Smithville, Mo.; and Saint Luke's Hospital, Kansas City, Mo. Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Mo., is a nonexclusive member of the group, still maintaining partnerships with other hospitals.
Saint Luke's, the largest hospital in Mid-America Health First, is a tertiary teaching facility in central Kansas City. All the hospitals except Liberty and Children's Mercy have some religious affiliation.
Mid-America Health First was conceived to be a network that would allow its member hospitals to compete more effectively as a group against Health Midwest, the dominant system in the Kansas City area. Then it switched tacks and declared it intended to become a fully merged hospital system.
But the parent of Saint Joseph and St. Mary's hospitals, Carondelet Health System, sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet in St. Louis, refused to merge assets of their hospitals with the rest.
Now the group is back to square one. James Boyle, chief executive officer of Shawnee Mission, called the present business plan "a `disciplined' network model." But, he added, the plan is still subject to change. The group expected to have the plan finished last week and to present it to each hospital's board in hopes of gaining approval by the end of the month.
Planners say their task has been complicated by the need to unify eight hospitals simultaneously, rather than add one or two at a time, as many networks and systems have done.
Mike Abell, CEO of Saint Joseph, said: "The present position of Carondelet is to seek out a method or way that the two affiliated Carondelet hospitals can participate in Health First. The option that looks most positive to us is the network model." Going to a merged system, he said, "is not a problem for just us. It's a problem for other partners as well, for instance Liberty, which is a district hospital and cannot merge its bottom line."
THE CURRENT PLAN IS `A "DISCIPLINED" NETWORK MODEL.' --James Boyle