The potential transfer of ownership of St. Mary's Hospital to the university would improve health care for Jefferson City, University of Missouri Health Care CEO Jonathan Curtright said Thursday.
SSM Health, the St. Louis-based Catholic non-for-profit health system that owns St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City, is in exclusive discussions MU Health Care to transfer ownership of the local hospital to the university, MU Health Care announced Thursday.
"We think if we can improve access for patients staying locally, it will be better for patients, hospitals and the local economy," Curtright said.
The discussions also include the transfer of SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital — Audrain, along with outpatient, home care, hospice and medical group locations throughout the region, to MU Health Care, as well as the transfer of SSM Health St. Francis Hospital — Maryville and its affiliated outpatient home care, hospice and medical group locations to St. Joseph-based Mosaic Life Care.
MU Health Care already has enjoyed a "long and storied history" with Capital Region Medical Center, providing care for the Jefferson City area for 21 years, Curtright said.
"We believe that will be nothing but enhanced through this partnership with St. Mary's," Curtright said. "More and more care is coming into Jefferson City."
The health care industry has shifted over the years in a way that requires all points of service in the entire continuum of care to be integrated together, SSM Health President/CEO Laura S. Kaiser said in an MU Health news release.
"Given the close proximity of MU Health Care and Mosaic Life Care's existing services, we feel this transition of ownership will best serve the people of Jefferson City, Mexico, Maryville and surrounding communities," Kaiser said.
MU Health Care is comprised of five hospitals in Columbia and more than 50 outpatient clinics and is one of two tier-one safety net health systems in Missouri, according to the news release.
The process is expected to take several months, and the terms of the transaction still are being finalized, according to the MU Health Care release.
Capital Region Medical Center has had a strong clinical affiliation with MU Health Care for more than 20 years and is "an excellent partner," CRMC President Gaspare Calvaruso said in a statement Thursday.
"For Cole County, this is a positive opportunity for the future of health care in our community," Calvaruso said. "The potential transfer of ownership of St. Mary's will only strengthen our ability to deliver care as a system that is integrated, personalized, and meets local needs. Furthermore, it will allow us to provide patients with greater access to a larger regional network that can provide more advanced levels of care, and will allow us to create a sustainable health care model that best serves the clinical needs of our community."
Calvaruso said CRMC has "enormous respect for the staff and physicians at St. Mary's, and I know we both share a strong commitment to providing safe, quality, patient-centered care.
"By deepening its investment in Jefferson City, MU Health Care will help ensure that patients can receive specialty care close to home in turn, creating new opportunities and increasing demand for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals within Cole County," Calvaruso concluded.
There are times, particularly in winter, when MU Health Care hospitals in Columbia are overcrowded, Curtright said. Bringing St. Mary's Hospital under the MU system's wing will allow patients to choose to stay closer to home.
"The number of sub-specialty positions is a major priority for this," Curtright said. "We'll be seeing more of the specialty positions. We'll be able to expand the amount of outpatient services."
Time will tell if MU Health Care will be able to grow its inpatient services in Jefferson City, Curtright said.
"But we are confident that this will be the case," he added.
The Franciscan Sisters of St. Mary opened the original St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City in 1905. The hospital moved to its current facility at 2505 Mission Drive in November 2014.
"When the Franciscan Sisters of St. Mary entered the region which would become the Diocese of Jefferson City, they found Catholics and other people of good will in the area to help them provide healing, compassionate and holistic care for the sick and suffering," Bishop Shawn McKnight of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City said in a Thursday statement. "We have been blessed with the dedication and witness to their founding vision by the staff of St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City and St. Mary's Hospital in Audrain County in carrying out this important service of our church."
Thursday's announcement that SSM Health plans to sell the only two remaining Catholic hospitals in the Diocese of Jefferson City marks the end of a long chapter of Catholic hospitals in the community, McKnight said.
"I want to encourage those communities affected by this decision to know that the diocese stands with them in writing the next chapter of Catholic health care for our communities," the bishop said. "As one of the corporal works of mercy, caring for the sick, including their spiritual care, is a core element of our Catholic mission."
St. Mary's Hospital and MU Health Care share similar missions, Curtright said. Both are committed to providing care and serving the underserved regardless of ability to pay.
"That's been a major part of the mission since its inception," he said.
McKnight said the Catholic diocese will continue to minister to the sick, elderly and the poor in other forms without the benefit of Catholic hospitals. He also intends to collaborate with health care professionals and civic officials to ensure Catholics and others working in health care "may continue to provide healing and care in our communities according to the values of our Christian faith."
Jefferson City has a wonderful sense of community, Curtright said.
"It's been a good day," Curtright said. "We're delighted to have a chance to better serve our community."