City of Independence to provide negotiation power in Mercy/CRMC merger talks

INDEPENDENCE — The City of Independence now has a stake in the merger negotiations between Mercy Hospital and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center.

The two Montgomery County-based hospitals have been negotiating an alliance or merger for several months. However, hospitals officials have indicated those negotiations have slowed lately as the two sides determine how to eliminate a financial gap that keeps the two hospitals from agreeing to a merger.

Details of the negotiations remain confidential due to a confidentiality clause signed by both hospitals.

However, city commissioners on Wednesday night voted unanimously to issue a letter of understanding that would allow the City of Independence to issue $3 million in bonds — either through industrial revenue bonds (knowns as IRBs) or general obligation bonds (known as GOBs) — to “retain health-care services in Independence.”

The commission met with city manager Micky Webb, assistant city manager Kelly Passauer and attorney Tim Emert (filling in for city attorney Jeff Chubb) in an executive session for 45 minutes. Also included the executive session was Jim Kelly of Independence, who serves as chairman of the Mercy Hospital board of directors. After the executive session, which is closed to the press and public, commissioners agreed to sign the letter of understanding that would permit the City of Independence to use the $3 million in bonds as negotiation leverage on behalf of Mercy Hospital.

“This merely allows us to have skin in the game,” said commissioner Fred Meier after the meeting regarding the letter of intent. “Before tonight, we didn’t have any negotiation power. This is merely the first step in the process.”

At a community meeting in May, interim Mercy chief executive officer Kim Day said failure to reach a merger agreement with CRMC would cause Mercy Hospital to close its doors in Independence.

“There is no plan B,” he said at that meeting.

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