KU Health System-Ardent Partnership Finalizes Purchase Of St. Francis Health

Nov 1, 2017

The University of Kansas Health System and Nashville-based Ardent Health Services announced Wednesday that they have completed the purchase of St. Francis Health in Topeka.

St. Francis Health became a focal point of the Medicaid expansion debate in Kansas earlier this year, as sources said the state’s decision not to expand eligibility for the program complicated negotiations with potential buyers. The 378-bed Topeka hospital and medical clinics were near closure before KU Health System and Ardent partnered for the purchase.

St. Francis Hospital will be known as the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, while its 15 clinics will be called the University of Kansas Physicians Topeka. Ardent, the nation’s second-largest privately owned for-profit hospital chain, will manage day-to-day operations but rely on KU Health System to provide clinical and financial resources.

Bob Page, left, of the University of Kansas Health System and David Vandewater of Ardent Health Services spoke Wednesday in Topeka on the official purchase of St. Francis Health, which now will be known as the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus.
Credit Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

During an event Wednesday in Topeka, Ardent President and CEO David Vandewater said the partnership has committed $50 million over the next three years “to ensure that we provide the capital necessary for this organization to continue to succeed.”

Ardent and KU Health System’s purchase of St. Francis Health, announced in May, had to be reviewed by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to ensure that the nonprofit hospital’s charitable assets would continue to be used for not-for-profit purposes.

Bob Page, president and CEO of KU Hospital, on Wednesday briefly addressed concerns about St. Francis Health’s relationship with Stormont Vail Health, a neighboring nonprofit hospital in Topeka. Randy Peterson, CEO and president of Stormont Vail Health, told the Topeka Capital-Journal last month that he had concerns how St. Francis Health’s transition to for-profit status would affect his organization.

“If you keep the community at the center of your decision, then you’ll do the right thing for the community, and if that means there are partnership opportunities, of course we’ll explore those opportunities,” Page said. “We’ll also compete. It happens in every community if you have more than one hospital — there’s competition and there’s collaboration, and that doesn’t change as a result of today.”

In St. Francis Health’s transition, the hospital cut approximately 50 jobs, which Vandewater said were mostly in non-clinical areas duplicated elsewhere in the company. St. Francis Health has about 1,500 employees, with 85 job openings currently posted, he said.

Madeline Fox is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.