North Kansas City’s hospital can’t be sold, so long as a dispute over whether the city has the authority to sell it is in court. That’s according to a preliminary injunction issued by a Clay County judge yesterday. While the ruling is good news for the hospital board bringing the lawsuit, the board also took a hit in yesterday’s court decision.
In his ruling, Judge Shane Alexander also gave clearance to the city’s move to appoint four new members to the North Kansas City Hospital board. The board had asked the judge to block the action, over worries that the appointments would unevenly pack its board.
Alexander ruled the city is “well within their statutorily granted power” to make the appointments. Even if it resulted in the hospital board dropping out of the lawsuit, “it will not end the lawsuit; seven other plaintiffs will remain, all of them individual relators and four of them citizens of North Kansas City, Missouri,” Alexander wrote in his judgment.
The North Kansas City council, meanwhile, has called a special meeting Wednesday evening to expand the hospital’s board and appoint eight new members.
The fierce dispute over the fate of North Kansas City Hospital has resulted in upwards of $1 million in legal fees. It has caught the attention of state lawmakers, who may intervene.
Problems emerged last summer, when city council members hired an outside agency to assess the hospital and explore options for its future. The hospital board sued the city over concerns that they were looking to sell the place. The city administrator denies this, saying they’re just studying options to ensure the hospital is in the best place moving forward.
In response to yesterday’s ruling, the city of North Kansas City issued the following statement:
“We appreciate the Court’s swift decision in this matter and its confirmation of North Kansas City’s authority to appoint members to the North Kansas City Hospital Board of Trustees, as provided by state law, city ordinance and Hospital bylaws. Our hope is to have a more meaningful discussion and a rational, thoughtful, and objective evaluation of the Hospital. It is in everyone’s best interests to protect North Kansas City Hospital and ensure that it is best positioned to remain a vibrant part of our community well into the future.”
In an emailed statement following the ruling, North Kansas City Hospital CEO said:
“We are pleased that Judge Alexander has stopped the city from taking any direct action to sell the hospital. We are optimistic that any new board members appointed by the city will support the continuation of North Kansas City Hospital as a community hospital.”
The wrangling over North Kansas City Hospital comes amid a recent wave of other possible hospital sales and mergers in the region, including Providence hospital in Kansas City, Kan., Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, St. Joseph Hospital in South Kansas City and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Lee’s Summit.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has scheduled a public hearing next Wednesday, March 27, over the proposed sale of Providence and St. John Hospital to Prime Health Care.
This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes KCUR , NPR and Kaiser Health News.
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