By Jerry LaMartina
The Overland Park City Council voted 9 to 2 Monday night to approve a special-use permit for the developer, Embree Asset Group Inc. of Georgetown, Texas, for a one-story, 17,140-square-foot, eight-bed microhospital that would provide 24-hour emergency care and allow for overnight stays.
An existing L-shaped commercial building on the site, which houses The Roxy bar and grill and several other businesses, would be demolished to make way for the microhospital, which the developer expects to cost $6 million.
Ward 1 Councilman Dave Janson and Ward 1 Councilwoman Terry Harper Scheier cast the dissenting votes. Janson expressed skepticism about the need for a microhospital in Overland Park.
“I frankly don’t get this,” he said. “I mean, this community is littered with health care providers, and Kansas is not a certificate-of-need state, so it’s up to the local community to determine need, and I would ask you to ask anybody in our community if they’re underserved, especially in this area. Just go down the street to Shawnee Mission Medical Center. It’s huge. We have urgent care all over the city.”
Steven Kirkpatrick, design manager with Embree, said the company was “trying to fit the niche between urgent care and severe trauma” and provide faster service to people with less-severe medical problems than those typically treated at urgent-care centers or regular hospitals.
Janson asked Kirkpatrick whether Embree was affiliated with a local hospital that would run the microhospital. Kirkpatrick said that the company intended to partner with a local provider but that “at this time I’m not allowed to reveal the potential partner for that.” Janson asked why.
“They have asked that we not release that,” Kirkpatrick said. “I think it has to do with competition and the changing model, being the first to the market.”
Janson said he wouldn’t support the special-use permit without knowing what entity would run the microhospital.
Ward 4 Councilman Terry Goodman asked Kirkpatrick whether his company must meet all legal requirements with or without a local hospital affiliation. Kirkpatrick said that his company would have to meet all legal requirements, that he understood an affiliation with a local hospital wasn’t required and that the microhospital would be licensed by the state.
“What you’re missing, Mr. Goodman, is maybe some of those questions were asked to find out if there’s a conflict of interest, and not knowing who they’re affiliated with, we have no idea whether there’s a conflict of interest or not,” Mayor Carl Gerlach said.
Scheier asked how the public would know the scope of medical services the microhospital would provide, and what kinds of services they’d have to go elsewhere to get.
“(The microhospital will) be required by state law to treat anyone who comes in,” Kirkpatrick said. “If their condition is more serious, they’ll be stabilized and sent to another facility for further treatment.”
Ward 3 Councilman David White said that it was hard for the council to evaluate the microhospital if they didn’t know who the end users would be, and that he didn’t know “why we’re hiding the ball here.”
“At least your client could be identified, and whether they affiliate with somebody else or not …,” White told Kirkpatrick. “If it’s a doctor-owned facility, those are the kinds of things we want to know. And it’s really, really hard for us to get a handle on this, because as far as I know we don’t have any facility like this in Overland Park … and if it’s going to be flashing red ‘emergency’ on Metcalf, we need to know (how our citizens are) going to react. … I know your hands are tied, but boy, I sure wish your client would be a little bit more forthcoming.”
During the meeting’s public comments period, Jane Clark, who lives near the site of the proposed microhospital, said she opposed it.
“It will not serve as an emergency room,” Clark said. “You will lose precious time if you stop at that and you’ve got a severe thing that you should’ve been going on down to Shawnee Mission (Medical Center) or St. Luke’s or somewhere else. … In fact, I have a good idea not telling who the client is and all that is just hiding an abortion clinic.”
Curtis Holland, a lawyer with Polsinelli PC, which represents Embree, said that he would “happily stipulate that it will not be (an abortion clinic). That’s not what’s intended to be done here.”