Boone Hospital Center considers options as management change looms

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COLUMBIA - Boone Hospital Center Trustees have mutually agreed with BJC HealthCare to end its management of Boone Hospital Center by December 31, 2020. 

Boone Hospital Center Board of Trustees issued a news release Tuesday stating it will work with BJC until 2021 to ensure a smooth transition, and the Trustees
"acknowledge BJC’s leadership of our community’s hospital over the last 30 years."

The statement said the two groups will work together to strengthen the hospital's finances. 

"In the short term, we anticipate Boone Hospital’s financial results will not be immune to the challenges facing non-academic, community hospitals nationally," said the release.

Tom Schneider, Boone Hospital's attorney, said BJC and Boone Hopsital have had a "productive and successful partnership". 

He said the parties mutually decided to part because of a "divergence of interest over time" and now the board of trustees is in the process of exploring other options.

Schneider said the hospital has a few priorities when looking at alternative options after the lease ends. He said the top priorities is employees because "they're the backbone, along with the medical staff, at Boone Hospital." 

Other top priorities include maintaining the quality of health care that the hospital provides and making sure the community has access to high quality health care, according to Schneider.

"BJC is very St. Louis-centric. We are the outlier being 125 miles from the Mississippi. I don't know that the healthcare needs are different, but the markets are different. What works in St. Louis might not work here and vice versa, " Schneider said. 

Dr. Gil Wilshire has his own practice, Mid-Missouri Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, but sometimes performs surgeries at Boone Hospital. He said he is okay with the hospital ending its lease with BJC.

"Their world view comes from St. Louis. It doesn't come from here in Columbia, so they've siphoned off a lot of profit. Some of it they've earned, but some of it, they just take right off the top and that money should probably stay here," Wilshire said.

He said he thinks BJC has done a good job administering the hospital and they are a fantastic hospital, but he hopes Boone will be innovative and creative with this opportunity.

Wilshire says there are good and bad sides to the different options.

"If you're not willing to take risks, you're not gonna get the rewards. If we have a deep enough pocket to weather the storm and get through the bad times, I think the good times will certainly outweigh the bad," Wilshire said.

Schneider said most hospitals are now part of a larger system. While the board of trustees are seriously looking at going back to an independent, or stand alone model, Schneider said with a system, there is strength and diversification.

Wilshire said it is a risk when it comes to finances and insurance policies, but finding another company to manage Boone and giving the management their cut of the profit would be a "dinosaur business model and there's nothing innovative about it."

When talks about the lease ending first began 2 years ago, BJC suggested Boone Hospital partner with the University of Missouri, but both parties decided to pause the conversation, but there is a possibility of further discussions, said Schneider. 

Wilshire doesn't agree with the University taking over Boone Hopsital either. He said merging with it would cause Boone to lose its identity and its excellence.

"My personal opinion is that we need a new, nimble, disruptive business plan. Our business model here is old, its archaic and it's gonna go the way of the dinosaurs. I think we need some radical new thinking and some people to take some risks so that we can, in fact, move on," Wilshire said.

Schneider said the Board of Trustees is looking to make a decision within 6 months and there will be public hearings to hear commentary from the community on the hospital's options.