A month after its partnership offer was rejected by Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. isn't saying for sure whether it will build a new hospital in Lawrence or if it's just thinking about it.
Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. appears to be leaning toward building a hospital in Lawrence, but the company hasn't settled on a timetable, location or how big it will be.
"It is more a question of what than a question of if," Columbia's top executive in Lawrence, David Nevill, said. "What, when and where are the big questions to be answered."
Nevill, in an interview Wednesday, declined to be any more specific and would not say that the company had made a final decision to proceed with construction in Lawrence.
"I'm not going to categorically confirm or deny one way or the other," he said, leaving the question unanswered.
Columbia, the for-profit company that owns Mt. Oread Medical Arts Centre at 3500 Clinton Pkwy., was one of three groups that last year proposed partnerships with Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The city-owned hospital's board of trustees formally rejected the offers last month.
Columbia executives said in January 1995 that the Nashville, Tenn., company would build a small hospital in Lawrence to directly compete against LMH if it couldn't purchase or form a joint venture with LMH.
The company's facility in Lawrence now offers a variety of outpatient services, including urgent and occupational health care and same-day surgery, but doesn't have beds to keep patients over night.
Nevill, Mt. Oread's chief operating officer, said Columbia has hired consultants to help it evaluate where it should build an acute care facility in Lawrence, how big it should be and what services it would offer.
The company is studying fewer than 10 sites in the city, including one near 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive, Nevill said.
Although the push toward managed care insurance is prompting hospitals, like all health care providers, to cut costs, Columbia executives have said they need beds in Lawrence to compete for statewide managed care contracts.
Columbia owns hospitals in Wichita, Dodge City and Overland Park and plans to take over a hospital in Halstead, pending approval by the Federal Trade Commission.
LMH executives and consultants have questioned whether two hospitals can survive in Lawrence.
"Even with the growth of Lawrence, we still feel like we have enough in-patient beds to serve Lawrence now and in the future," said Janice Early-Weas, LMH director of community relations.
LMH has 164 beds.
"Whether or not Lawrence can support a second hospital isn't up to us," Early-Weas said. "It's up to the market."