Setting aside their long history as rivals, the two major hospital systems in Kansas City, Mo., said late last week they will come together to create a joint venture to develop a major cancer center.
Health Midwest and Saint Luke's-Shawnee Mission Health System will cooperate with the Stowers Institute for Medical Research to create a center they hope will rival the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
The facility would be a "comprehensive cancer center," a designation used by the National Cancer Institute for those centers that commit to clinical care, cancer research, professional collaboration and community outreach.
There are six such comprehensive centers in the Midwest, but none in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa or Nebraska, the project's target area.
"There's no need for people from Kansas City to feel they have to leave the area to get the best cancer care," said Dennis McClatchey, senior vice president at Health Midwest.
In 1998, 15-hospital Health Midwest and eight-hospital St. Luke's combined diagnosed about 5,000 cancer patients, more than M.D. Anderson's 3,000, the new partners said in a statement.
The two systems are conducting a 90-day feasibility study, hoping to get something operational in the first quarter of 2001. They said they don't know how much it will cost to develop the center.
"We're hoping that doing this [together] will eliminate some costs," McClatchey said. "Rather than duplicate gamma knives and radiation therapy equipment, we can allocate our resources in a planned way to achieve a first-class cancer program."
McClatchey didn't see any antitrust issues but said the systems would study the issue.
A governance board would be created from both systems that would include community members not affiliated with the hospital systems. At present there's no plan to create a new physical plant, but McClatchey wouldn't rule that out.