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North KC Hospital Dispute Appears Headed Toward Resolution

Elana Gordon

A heated feud over the fate of North Kansas City Hospital may soon be coming to a close. Hospital and city leaders are meeting Friday in hopes of resolving their differences. Moreover, recently passed state legislation and newly elected local officials appear to have diffused the controversy.  

Rumors of a possible hospital sale emerged last summer, after the city hired an outside firm to assess the hospital and outline future options. A costly legal battle ensued between the hospital’s board and city leaders. The hospital board alleged the city had no right to sell the place; the city’s administrator denied a sale was even on the table, saying they needed to assess the situation and explore all options, amid a changing health care landscape and new requirements under the federal health law.

Recently elected Mayor, Don Stielow, said the past few months have made North Kansas City a very unpleasant place.

“It’s been neighbor against neighbor,” Stielow said.

“It has kind of divided the city. I’ve lived here 40 years, and Northtown was always known as ‘friendly Northtown.'”

Now that Stielow, who campaigned last month against a hospital sale, and four new council members have been elected, the dynamics at City Hall appear to be changing. Stielow said legislation now on the governor’s desk would also prevent an imminent hospital sale. That’s because the bill would require a sale first be approved by residents.

“That’s what I wanted, and I think that is what most of the people in North Kansas City wanted,” Stielow said.

North Kansas City Hospital also issued a statement on behalf of its board chair, Mike Montgomery, in light of Friday's meeting with Stielow and three other council members:

“We look forward to Friday’s meeting so that the Hospital and the City can begin building a bridge to close the gap that’s been created over the past year. Our goal would be to establish a dialogue that will ultimately resolve our differences.”

The North Kansas City dispute comes amid a wave of likely hospital sales and mergers in the region. That includes Providence hospital in Kansas City, Kan., Saint Johns Hospital in Leavenworth, St. Joseph Hospital in South Kansas City and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Lee’s Summit.

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