Olathe Health to become part of University of Kansas Health System, hospital officials announce

JOHN SLEEZER/File photo

Olathe Health in Johnson County, an independent health care system for 70 years, will become part of The University of Kansas Health System, hospital officials announced Wednesday.

Hospital officials said nothing will change immediately for patients, who will continue to see their current health care providers.

As one health system, Olathe and KU will enhance regional access to “quality care close to home,” said Stan Holm, CEO and president of Olathe Health during a press briefing.

The move brings promise of significant financial investment and improvement, over time, in current Olathe Health facilities and services, officials said.

The two health systems began discussing the move in 2019, Bob Page, CEO and president of the KU system, told KU employees before the move was announced publicly.

It responds to the changing health care landscape both regionally and nationwide, in which patients want routine and complex health care within one health system.

They described Olathe as a strong primary care physician network with multiple hospital and clinic locations and land for expansion in Johnson County.

“A few months ago they approached us wanting to become part of our health system,” Page told employees. “They had analyzed the situation every health system is facing right now. Decreasing reimbursements, the increasing cost to provide care, the challenges of recruitment of both providers and staff.

“Olathe Health could survive the current challenges. However, they felt that they owed it to their patients, their community and their physicians and staff to plan a future in which they could thrive.”

KU and Olathe have already partnered on several efforts, including bringing specialty physicians to the Olathe area, including southern parts of Johnson County and beyond. Page said the two health systems quickly “came to the conclusion that we would work toward a more robust relationship.”

Other key points of the move:

All Olathe Health employees in good standing will become employees of the KU system.

KU will support Olathe’s goal of achieving Magnet designation, the highest designation for nursing excellence.

The Olathe Health board of directors will become an advisory board.

Olathe Health is a “strong community health system,” said Tammy Peterman, president of the KU system’s Kansas City division.

The Olathe system has 2,300 associates, 350 health care providers and 60 care locations serving five counties, Holm said.

With 250 staff beds at Olathe Medical Center, 39 beds at Miami County Medical Center and the 60 care locations, the system has available space in many of those locations, including inpatient bed capacity, Peterman said.

“They have inpatient beds and outpatient space, both of which we need,” she said. “And they have primary care and specialty care which will complement ours as well.”

Olathe Health began construction in August on a nearly $70 million expansion, with an Overland Park location and a new medical campus, a “one-stop-shop” for everything from primary to urgent care.

The project will eventually expand the health system’s footprint with construction at two locations:

Two new outpatient centers — Omni Outpatient Surgery and Olathe Health Multispecialty Center — will be built inside the Landmark National Bank building near the busy intersection of U.S. 69 and 135th Street in Overland Park. It’s expected to be open next spring.

A second, larger project, at the northwest corner of 151st Street and Quivira Road — in Olathe but bordering Overland Park — will be a new medical campus housing primary, urgent and specialty care and surgery services. Earthwork and excavation there was scheduled for Thursday to begin preparing the area for construction.

Page was circumspect on how long the deal will take to finalize — “as long as it takes,” he said.

Holm said letters of intent are typically signed behind closed doors, but the hospitals wanted to be transparent about the move.

The health systems set up a website to keep the public updated: KansasHealthTogether.com.