Ardent, University of Kansas Health System Selected to Purchase St. Francis Hospital in Topeka

Friday, June 23, 2017

The partnership will allow the hospital to remain open and preserve jobs.

TOPEKA — In mid-April, word began to spread that St. Francis Hospital might soon be closed if a buyer for the facility could not be secured.

Changes in health care prompted Denver-based SCL Health to work toward selling the 378-bed hospital, founded in 1909 by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. On April 18, the organization announced plans to cease operations by summer.

“The system is eager to discuss any alternatives that can be accomplished swiftly and is willing to donate St. Francis to another organization that can take over operations,” wrote Brian Newsome, director of public relations for SCL Health, in a news release issued April 18. “With or without another operator, however, SCL Health will cease operating the hospital this summer.”

“This is one of the most difficult decisions our organization has ever faced,” said Mike Slubowski, SCL Health president and CEO who left SCL in March to join Trinity Health. “St. Francis Health is not sustainable in today’s dramatically changing healthcare environment. But that doesn’t diminish the legacy of more than a century of service to this community, or prevent another modified role in the future. We have been in conversations yesterday and today with Governor Brownback, the Chamber and other local providers about possible solutions to sustain St. Francis. We are hopeful and will know something more definite by the first week in May.”

The announcement kicked off a flurry of conversations, with a number of possibilities mentioned, and by early May SCL Health was able to announce that the hospital would have new operators.

On May 4, the University of Kansas Health System, out of Kansas City, and Ardent Health Services, out of Nashville, Tennessee, announced plans to form a joint venture company to purchase the hospital, as well as SCL Health’s selection of the joint venture to acquire the facility.

According to a news release issued by the two companies, the partnership will allow St. Francis Health to remain open and continue serving its community, in addition to preserving jobs for substantially all of the hospital’s 1,600 employees. The partnership also will provide the hospital with a $50 million infusion of capital during the first year.

“We are grateful our proposal was seen as the most positive path forward for St. Francis,” said Bob Page, President and CEO of The University of Kansas Health System, in the jointly issued press release. “We understand the critical role hospitals like St. Francis Health play for patients, physicians, employees and the communities they serve.”

Page said the partnership should strengthen St. Francis Health for the future.

“By marrying our resources as an academic medical center and Ardent’s operational expertise, we secure the long-term sustainability of St. Francis Health,” he said.

David T. Vandewater, president and CEO of Ardent Health Services, said his organization is honored to partner with The University of Kansas Health System.

“Our successful joint venture model will preserve local leadership while providing St. Francis Health with the resources, support and investment needed to maintain and grow the hospital,” he said.

As of the May 4 announcement, leaders in the transition set a goal of completing the transaction, finalizing agreements and obtaining regulatory approval within 60 days of signing the letter of intent to acquire the hospital.