California-based Prime Healthcare: We’d like to save St. Francis

Prime Healthcare Foundation Inc. notified Gov. Sam Brownback this week that the California-based health care organization wants to be in the running to take over St. Francis Health.

“Through various sources, we have been told that the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth are contemplating closing St. Francis Medical Center in the next several weeks, leaving over one thousand individuals unemployed, patients displaced and the unintended consequence of more difficulty accessing healthcare for the underprivileged and underserved,” said the letter, dated Thursday.

The letter, which was given anonymously to The Topeka Capital-Journal, sought to notify Brownback of Prime’s “potential interest to assist in saving St. Francis Medical Center.” A little over four pages long, it was signed by general counsel Troy A. Schell. In it, he enumerated hospitals that Prime Healthcare has bought and said, “As you may or may not know, Prime Healthcare has built its business on saving and turning around distressed hospitals.”

Prime Healthcare Foundation Inc. owns and operates 14 acute-care hospitals, the letter said, and it is affiliated with Prime Healthcare Services Inc., which operates 30 acute-care hospitals.

“Prime Healthcare wants to assist in keeping St. Francis open immediately and for years to come,” Schell’s letter said. “We believe that with sound management focusing on quality and the patient, St. Francis can be a flagship for Prime Healthcare and a treasured asset of Topeka. With limited assistance from Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Prime Healthcare will be able to immediately come in and save this hospital from closure, prevent imminent layoffs and allow the continued access for the underserved in the greater Topeka region.”

At a meeting Saturday morning with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who apparently was seeking information about whether he could help with the St. Francis situation, attendees were told that Prime Healthcare would be distributing a news release about its interest in the property.

SCL Health, the Denver-based owners of St. Francis, earlier this week gave state and local leaders two weeks to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve closing the hospital. A whirlwind of news followed, with Stormont Vail Health CEO Randy Peterson announcing that St. Francis had offered to hand over its property and equipment to Stormont if the hospital would take over operations.

“As a result of Gov. Brownback’s efforts over past weeks, alongside community leaders, we believe SCL and the Topeka community will have multiple options for keeping the hospital open,” Melika Willoughby, Brownback’s spokeswoman, said Saturday evening.

California-based Prime Healthcare Services in 2013 bought two other SCL Health hospitals, Providence Medical Center and St. John Hospital, both in the Kansas City area. Prime Healthcare and its nonprofit arm, Prime Healthcare Foundation, own and operate 44 acute-care hospitals across the country, according to its website. They employ about 43,500 people.

Prime has a tab on its website called “Saving Hospitals.” In it, a quote at the top attributed to LyRae S. in Redding, Calif., says: “I work in a hospital that was hours away from closing the doors for good. Prime purchased us in 2008 and quickly brought us from the brink of closure to a busy thriving hospital. In addition, Prime does a tremendous amount for the community.”

Capital-Journal staff writer Tim Carpenter contributed to this report.

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California-based Prime Healthcare: We’d like to save St. Francis

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