Boone Hospital, MU Hit Pause Button on Partnership Talks

Jan 25, 2018

Talks of a partnership between Boone Hospital Center and MU Health Care have ended for the time being.

Boone's board of trustees and MU Health Care issued a joint statement by email on Thursday morning announcing that after 18 months of negotiations they have decided to pause exclusive negotiations.

The trustees and representatives of MU have been talking behind closed doors regularly about a possible collaboration as the 2020 expiration of Boone Hospital Center's lease with BJC HealthCare approaches.

BJC has informed the trustees it believes it's in the best interest of both parties for Boone Hospital Center to find a new arrangement for management of the hospital, and it recommended last year that Boone seek a partnership with MU Health Care.

If either Boone or BJC intends to discontinue the current lease arrangment, it must notify the other party by the end of 2018.

"Our guiding principle has been to do what is in the best interest of our patients, employees and communities we serve as we explored many options," the Thursday statement from the trustees and MU said. "The BHC Trustees and MU Health Care leadership were unable to fully align at this time on the mission and strategic direction necessary for the proposed partnership."

BHC trustees chairman Brian Neuner said in an interview on Thursday that Boone Hospital Center and MU Health Care's interests don't align at this point in time and cited mission differences between the two. 

"They’re an academic center; their mission is teaching, and that’s wonderful," Neuner said. "But we’re not in that same approach, so how you get those two cultures and approach it together can present a lot of challenges. And how both sides see the future, we have a little different approach to that as well."

Neuner said the "complicated" process of finding a new partner involves both parties — the BHC trustees and UM System Board of Curators — looking out for their best interests.

"We have to ask ourselves, 'Is this enough in common to move forward with the deal?' And right now that's a no," Neuner said.

Boone Hospital fielded multiple proposals before initially settling into talks with MU Health Care. It has not yet pursued talks specific to proposals from Tennessee-based Duke LifePoint and Kansas City-based Saint Luke’s Health System. It also has mentioned the option of standing alone.

"We began (talks) with MU because we thought it represented the greatest opportunity for the central Missouri community, and it would’ve kept the jobs here locally," Neuner said. "With BJC, some of the jobs have been moved to St. Louis and certainly some of the revenue, too. That’s one of the main reasons why we began looking at MU first."

He said the trustees will now take a deeper look at the other proposals to see if anything's changed since they were submitted. The trustees will also consider the stand-alone option.

Jonathan Curtright, chief executive officer of MU Health Care, said in the statement that the hospital is "grateful and appreciative" of the chance to talk about a partnership.

“As an academic health system, we are committed to being good stewards of our resources and ensuring balance across the three priorities central to our mission: advancing clinical excellence, driving world-class research, and fostering educational opportunities," Curtright said. "While our decision to pause negotiations is difficult, there is a tremendous amount of mutual respect for the BHC Board of Trustees and we know that they share our ultimate goal to do what is in the best interest of those we serve.”

The statement said both organizations remain willing to explore future collaborations.

"We’re not the biggest hospital, but I think most people in mid-Missouri consider us the best," Neuner said. "We have some great accolades that have generated some tremendous pride at Boone ... So we’re going to maintain those things."

Missourian reporter Claire Mitzel contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.