Children’s Mercy Hospital, KU form a pediatric care alliance

After teaming up for years to meet growing demands in child health care, Children’s Mercy Hospital and the University of Kansas’ major medical forces want to strike a formal alliance.

“This makes sense,” said Michael Artman, who will lead an integrated pediatric program that unites Children’s Mercy, the University of Kansas Medical Center, the University of Kansas Hospital and the University of Kansas Physicians.

“This represents a new era in health care for children in the region.”

The four partners announced their plans Monday, saying they will be bringing in a consulting team to help them plan an improved network of services across the region and navigate legislative and political differences across the state line in Medicaid reimbursements and malpractice insurance issues.

Artman, the chairman of the pediatrics department at Children’s Mercy and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, said he hopes the teams working with consultants will get initial planning done by the middle of 2013 and be ready to begin putting the new network into action later in the year.

The partners will be looking to improve services across the area in medical care, research and education.

Because the demand for services at Kansas City area hospitals and clinics is expected to continue growing, the collaboration will not reduce the number of jobs, Artman said.

Nor will Children’s Mercy’s longstanding affiliation with UMKC be affected by the partnership with KU, he said.

Children’s Mercy will continue to join in the training of medical students and pediatric residents at UMKC as it now moves to formalize a training partnership with KU.

The partners have collaborated many times in recent years, including KU’s successful effort to earn designation this year from the National Cancer Institute. Children’s Mercy was the oncology partner.

Other KU and Children’s Mercy partnerships have combined training, clinical trials and research to take on many health issues, including childhood obesity, cancer biology, pediatric liver disease and drug development.

The Kansas City-based centers have come under increasing demand as rural and other outlying medical centers struggle with funding and a shortage in specialized medical professionals, Artman said.

A formal partnership will help the partners reduce duplications of services and more efficiently distribute people, resources and equipment across the area.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, in a written statement, endorsed the partnership.

“This is an important opportunity to make an already strong partnership in the education of Kansas physicians, nurses and other health professionals, and in the university’s lifesaving research, even stronger,” Brownback said.

The teams developing the partnership’s plans will be looking for plenty of political support because of differences across state lines concerning Medicaid and medical malpractice insurance, Artman said.