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Wichita Clinic to become part of Via Christi Health

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Nov. 19, 2010, at 8:56 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, Nov. 19, 2010, at 3:17 p.m.

Via Christi Health and Wichita Clinic said today they have reached an agreement in which the clinic, the area's largest physician group, will become part of the Via Christi system.

The agreement to create the new Via Christi Clinic is expected to become final within three to four months.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Once complete, Wichita Clinic locations would change their names to Via Christi. No immediate change is expected to Wichita Clinic office locations or employee status, Via Christi said.

Wichita Clinic has 160 physicians and 1,030 employees and 12 locations in the Wichita area. It will add a 13th office next month at the Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa medical office building.

Wichita Clinic physician and chief medical officer Robert Kenagy will become senior vice president of Via Christi Physician Services under the agreement.

Clinic physician and executive medical officer Jack Shellito will be appointed chief medical officer of Via Christi Clinic. Wichita Clinic executive director Kimberly Shank will be vice president of operations.

Kevin Conlin, CEO of Via Christi Health, said the addition of Wichita Clinic and its physicians to the state's largest health system will enable it to address a changing health care system in which providers will be expected to deliver better care for less money.

"Our view is there must be a tighter alignment of hospitals with physicians to deliver on those two (expectations)," Conlin said.

He said patients, employers, insurers and the federal government "are all in agreement ... that they're paying too much for the delivery of health care in the United States. And we're hearing it locally."

Kenagy said a number of factors led Wichita Clinic to the agreement, including lowering health care costs and improving the quality of care.

"If you first start and look at the health care landscape, not just what's coming from the health care reform effort in Washington (D.C.), but if you look at what's been talked about in the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care ... clearly there's a need to begin looking at innovations in care delivery and increasing the service opportunity for patients," he said.

Wichita Clinic physicians were also attracted to Via Christi's "vision" of having greater physician leadership across its system, Kenagy said.

"We have a lot of what's attractive to Via Christi and we will be able to maintain that physician governance, leadership and involvement," he said. "So there are lots of good reasons to consider this."

Kenagy said he doesn't expect the agreement to lead Wichita Clinic physicians to referring their patients solely to Via Christi's hospitals.

Via Christi's Conlin agreed.

"We do not expect that the patients that need to be hospitalized who are under the care of a Wichita Clinic physician would all have to come to Via Christi," Conlin said.

Wesley Medical Center Hugh Tappan said he doesn't think the agreement will affect its business relationship with Wichita Clinic doctors.

"Wesley has had a successful relationship with Wichita Clinic physicians since the clinic has been in existence," Tappan said in the statement. "We are proud of that relationship. Our plans are to maintain those relationships well into the future."

Ron Whiting, executive director of the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care, a consortium of employers, health care providers and insurers, said the agreement is "neither inherently good nor bad."

The goal of his group is to foster a system of health care providers that is accessible to all of the community and that provide a better quality of care at a lower cost.

"We have called for a greater coordination of care, a better collaboration of providers," Whiting said. "On the face of it, this agreement would seem to address that."

Time will tell if the deal is good for employers and their employees.

"The proof will be in the execution," he said.

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