Sources: KU Health System and Ardent will take over St. Francis

By Morgan Chilson, May 04, 2017

An aerila view of St. Francis Hospital

St. Francis Health has sought a buyer in recent weeks. (TCJ File photo)

The University of Kansas Health System and partner Ardent Health Services are expected to take over operations of St. Francis Health, sources with direct knowledge of the situation say.

SCL Health, which owns the 1,600-employee hospital in Topeka, plans a news conference for 11:30 a.m. Thursday to make a public announcement about the nonprofit’s efforts to seek a new partner. Employees were attending the first of five town hall style meetings at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Gov. Sam Brownback will attend the news conference, his spokeswoman, Melika Willoughby, said in a tweet.

KU Health and its Nashville-based partner made their interest in St. Francis known in a letter of intent April 27. Also expressing interest before Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline were Stormont Vail Health and Prime Healthcare Foundation, of Ontario, Calif.

In correspondence to executives at SCL Health, the president of KU Health expressed confidence from a preliminary analysis of the Topeka hospital’s operations and needs.

“We believe health care for Kansans, by Kansans, is critical to thriving communities and to the state,” said Bob Page, president and CEO at KU Health System.

Copies of Page’s correspondence were directed to Brownback, Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast and Greg Schwerdt, chairman of the board at St. Francis.

Ardent is a for-profit system that owns 19 hospitals in six states and has 18,000 employees, according to its website. In 2015, Ardent was bought by Ventas Inc., an S&P 500 company, and Equity Group Investments, a private investment firm, for $1.75 billion.

St. Francis has struggled financially and lost more than $115 million in the past five years, leading to the decision from SCL Health in May 2016 that it would seek buyers for the facility. Without a deal in hand, SCL Health made clear it would shut down the facility.

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