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Kansas system to acquire 1st hospital in Missouri

The University of Kansas Health System and Liberty (Mo.) Hospital have signed definitive agreements for the hospital and its clinics to join the Kansas City-based health system. 

KU Health System currently operates six acute care hospitals and two behavioral health hospitals. While it operates various clinics in Missouri, Liberty would be its first hospital in the state.

The deal is expected to close July 1. 

"When you look at the metro area here in Kansas City, there aren't many independent hospitals. There are many hospitals that are now managed outside the metro area," Bob Page, president and CEO of the University of Kansas Health, told Becker's. "This was a perfect opportunity to partner with another independent hospital in a prime area for our health system. We also have that cultural compatibility, so it was pretty much a no-brainer for us to pursue."

Notably, 35% of KU Health's patients come from Missouri, "so having a great community hospital in the state was really important to us," Tammy Peterman, MS, RN, president of the health system's Kansas City division, told Becker's. "This agreement will not only allow us to treat more patients overall, but also offer access to those with the most complex care needs at 39th and Rainbow and other locations."

As part of the agreement, Liberty's staff and employed physicians will be retained for at least one year after closing. 

The hospital, which has more than 2,000 employees and 330 physicians, will also maintain an open medical staff — except for certain hospital-based service lines and specialties for which exclusive provider coverage arrangements may be necessary.

KU Health has also committed to invest $324 million into Liberty over the next 12 years to expand and improve care across various areas and make more care available closer to patients' homes. The system operates the only NCI-designated cancer center in the metro area and in the state of Kansas, and plans to expand the program to Liberty Hospital. 

"A lot of our patients from this area are already receiving care from the University of Kansas Hospital. The benefit is that a lot of that care can be brought here so patients don’t have to travel to the main campus," Raghu Adiga, MD, president and CEO of the hospital, told Becker's. "The same level of high-quality care can be provided right here in their hometown."

"As a small independent hospital, recruitment of talent is not easy, so our first focus is certainly to expand and strengthen our existing service lines, before we look at adding new ones," Dr. Adiga, said.

KU Health, which recently acquired 2-hospital system Olathe Health, also plans to integrate the Epic EHR system it uses across all clinics and hospitals. 

"That would be an eventual goal," Dr. Adiga said. 

Once the transaction closes, the next challenge that will need to be addressed is the integration process, but it is a challenge made easier by the cultural alignment of Liberty and KU Health, according to leaders from both organizations. 

"This is a great cultural fit that really made sense for both organizations," Ms. Peterman said. "We both have similar philosophies and areas of focus. You can't put organizations together that don't have a great cultural fit, and I think we're very well positioned for that integration next step."

KU Health recently welcomed Olathe Health and has a systematic and intentional process for integration that emphasizes collaboration. 

"The reality is that while we have a process, we don't have a playbook," Mr. Page said. "It's all about collaboration; if you put the right teams in place and help them shape the future, there's a higher likelihood of success."

Dr. Adiga added that the partnership will ensure the future of Liberty and its ability to meet the growing healthcare needs of people in the Northland and northwest Missouri. 

"We are excited to bring world-class healthcare to our patients, for our employees to experience the benefits of academic medicine, and for our community to enjoy the economic growth and local opportunities we expect from this partnership," Dr. Adiga said.

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