St. Mary's goal was always to benefit health education, officials say

Monday’s announcement by Gov. Jay Nixon drew applause from a full house at Lincoln University’s Memorial Hall.

Monday’s announcement by Gov. Jay Nixon drew applause from a full house at Lincoln University’s Memorial Hall. Photo by Julie Smith.

SSM Health Care signed an agreement Friday to donate the current St. Mary’s Health Center (SMHC) property at 100 St. Mary’s Medical Plaza to the state of Missouri.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday morning at Lincoln University that his 2015 budget—which he will present to the General Assembly this evening—includes “$10 million for the Office of Administration to acquire and renovate a portion of St. Mary’s facility, as well as to purchase the necessary equipment for development.”

The state plans to use a portion of the building for Lincoln University’s nursing school and a culinary institute.

Tracy O’Rourke, vice president of strategy and marketing at SMHC, said it was the hospital’s preference not to inform those in attendance at Nixon’s announcement that SSM Health Care, SMHC’s parent company, is donating the property to the state.

“It was our preference that his (Nixon’s) announcement focus on the state’s contribution of $10 million,” she said.

The agreement signed by SMHC and the state is a Memorandum of Understanding, which states that SSM Health Care and the state will continue negotiations over the next few months.

O’Rourke said the details of the transaction with the state still need to be worked out.

When asked how SMHC will benefit from the agreement, O’Rourke said SMHC’s interest has always been on what the property is going to be in the future.

“Our focus has always been on repurposing it into something more in line with health education,” she said. “This is our investment into the community and our part in what is going to be done with the campus and continuing our legacy.”

The memorandum also includes several stipulations, one of them being that St. Mary’s donation doesn’t include hospital properties located on the east side of Missouri Boulevard. The hospital remains responsible for selling them.

Also, the state cannot “directly or indirectly develop, construct own or operate” any type of health care on the property that would directly or indirectly compete with SMHC.

Brent VanConia, regional president of SSM’s Mid-Missouri Region and president of SMHC, said Monday afternoon at a Martin Luther King. Jr. presentation at the hospital that if all works out as planned, the two parties will close on the sale and Missouri will take over as landlord of the facility shortly after SMHC moves out in November.

SMHC is in the midst of a $200 million construction project for a new facility — slated to open Nov. 16 — at Missouri 179 and Mission Drive. Tony Houston, SMHC’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the hospital is expected to take possession of the new facility in August.

VanConia said at Monday morning’s announcement that from day one, the ideal tenant for the existing SMHC campus was the state and/or Lincoln University.

“This is an opportunity to expand higher education with a particular interest on nursing and aligning the mission and values of SSM Health Care,” he said. “Good things are ahead, and we look forward to the future of this development.”

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