In the latest example of providers and state officials facing off to control healthcare construction, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon last week appealed a judge's approval of plans by Saint Luke's Health System, Kansas City, Mo., to build a 52-bed, $57 million hospital in Lee's Summit, Mo.
The Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee in June 2002 denied Saint Luke's request for certificate-of-need approval, but Cole County (Mo.) Circuit Court overturned the committee's decision on March 11. Nixon, on behalf of the committee, appealed the decision to a state appeals court in Kansas City.
"We remain convinced there's not a need for a new hospital in the area," committee Director Tom Piper said. He said the panel decided March 31 to appeal based on its view that hospital bed occupancy for that area did not exceed 80% and that it was already overbedded, among other concerns. "There are eight facilities within the 10-mile radius and two in (the) most immediate area of Lee's Summit," he said
G. Richard Hastings, chief executive officer of Saint Luke's, said the eight-hospital system was "stunned" to learn the state intends to appeal "such a clear and strong decision" by the circuit court.
"This will only serve to further delay the delivery of needed healthcare choice and access for the citizens of Lee's Summit and eastern Jackson County-and force the expenditure of scarce state funds and our funds to continue to battle in the courts," Hastings said in a written statement.
Hastings said Saint Luke's believes the CON law is unconstitutional and that the system also would file an immediate appeal based on the constitutional claims, asking the Missouri Supreme Court to repeal the CON law for hospitals and other acute-care providers and "strike down this law in its entirety."
State lawmakers have continued to whittle down CON laws, including those in Missouri, which last year retained its regulatory review of new construction but repealed its oversight of renovation and expansion projects for acute-care hospitals (April 21, p. 4).
"I'm disappointed that they would be so vigorous in their pursuit of destroying state oversight of the alarming increase in healthcare costs," Piper said of Saint Luke's threat of a constitutional challenge. "We're trying so hard to control rising healthcare costs."
Despite Nixon's appeal, Saint Luke's was planning last week to proceed with a groundbreaking ceremony for the Lee's Summit campus, which includes a 24-hour urgent-care center, diagnostic center and medical office building. Construction of the three buildings, which does not require CON approval and will cost $22 million, is expected to be completed by 2005.