Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. operations in the Kansas City area, Kansas and Missouri, could come into the orbit of Health Midwest, the area's largest integrated hospital system, under a letter of intent signed recently. But the structure of the relationship is yet to be determined.
Health Midwest owns and operates 12 hospitals and numerous ancillary facilities in Kansas and Missouri.
"It's not likely to be a purchase," said Tom Cranshaw, senior vice president for strategic planning at Health Midwest. "The exact legal form is still under consideration. We're looking for a legal mechanism that will permit joint-venture-like decisionmaking to occur, with Health Midwest in the leadership position."
He said the details should be worked out during a 60-day due-diligence period.
The announcement by Health Midwest late last month didn't take too many people in Kansas City by surprise, sources said. Both Health Midwest and St. Luke's-Shawnee Mission Health System, the other major system in town, had been making overtures to Columbia off and on for years.
Columbia owns three acute-care hospitals in the area: Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.; Independence (Mo.) Regional Health Center; and Overland Park (Kan.) Regional Medical Center. It also owns two surgery centers and a half-interest in Research Psychiatric Center in Kansas City, Mo. Health Midwest is the other half-owner.
The acute-care hospitals had been scheduled to be spun off as part of Columbia's Pacific Group of hospitals.
Jeff Prescott, Columbia spokesman in Nashville, downplayed the significance of the Health Midwest statement. "There are discussions in Kansas City in general with a lot of folks. There's still a long way to go on anything concrete." The discussions with Health Midwest aren't exclusive at this point, he said.
It would be premature to discuss the structure of the arrangement, he said.