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Missouri state senator wants voters to have say in KU Health System, Liberty Hospital merger

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Posted at 2:35 PM, Dec 13, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri senator representing a part of Jackson County has filed a bill to give voters in Clay County a say in a proposed merger of the University of Kansas Health System and Liberty Hospital.

In October, the two health care systems announced plans to pursue a partnership, and in November, announced they had signed a non-binding letter of intent to partner.

In a Zoom interview Wednesday with KSHB 41 News, Liberty Hospital President and CEO Dr. Raghu Adiga says his hospital and KU Health System continue to work together to detail the scope of the partnership.

Adiga said the process of identifying a partner started at the beginning of 2023 when the hospital's Board of Trustees reached out to 32 entities across the country. From that group, leaders received 12 responses back. After further evaluation, leaders narrowed down the list of potential partners to four organizations in July and August.

"The trustees looked at the objectives and goals that we set out at the beginning and made the decision to go with KU as they pretty much tick every box that we had," Adiga said.

Earlier this month, Sen. Greg Razer (D - Jackson County) pre-filed legislation calling for voter approval of any partnership of a Missouri-based health care facility and an out-of-state health care system operated by an institution of higher learning.

Razer spoke about the bill in an interview Tuesday with KSHB 41’s Megan Abundis.

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Missouri Sen. Greg Razer (left) and KSHB 41 reporter Megan Abundis

“Let me say, (University of Kansas Health System) is a fantastic health care system,” Razer said. “I’ve gone there, they are great.”

Razer says his concerns lie in the fact KU Health System isn’t a for-profit or independent nonprofit organization.

“This is a part of the Kansas government, a part of the State of Kansas governed by a board, appointed by the governor of Kansas, planting a flag in the state of Missouri,” Razer said. “Not to benefit Missourians, but to take from Missourians to benefit Kansans.”

Razer hopes his bill — if passed and signed into law — would give residents in the hospital district a chance to have a say.

The Letter of Intent reached in November calls for the heath system not to seek or accept Missouri tax dollars, and taxes generated within the district would stay within the district. The hospital district is overseen by the six-member Liberty Hospital Board of Trustees, who themselves are elected by voters.

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Liberty Hospital President and CEO Dr. Raghu Adiga

Adiga says the two parties are currently involved in due diligence and going through every contract and looking into every detail before arriving at a final, definitive agreement.

"If the timeline goes very well, that's going to be the early part of next year," Adiga said. "The timeline is hopefully sometime in the early spring."

The Letter of Intent calls for KU Health System to make "significant investments" to Liberty Hospital services, facilities, infrastructure and technology.

The partnership would also call for the retention of Liberty Hospital Employees, extension of specialized and sub-specialized care to the Liberty Hospital service area, help in Liberty Hospital's efforts to achieve Magnet designation, a continued focus on patient, staff and community needs, creation of a new Advisory Board with the help of the Board of Trustees and enhanced physician and provider recruitment at Liberty Hospital.

"The feedback I'm getting from the community is universally positive," Adiga said. "They're all excited about bringing such high-level academic health care right here into our backyard."