Judge issues preliminary injunction in hospital lawsuit - KCTV5

Judge issues preliminary injunction in North Kansas City Hospital lawsuit

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A Clay County judge has issued a preliminary injunction in a legal battle between the city of North Kansas City and North Kansas City Hospital.

A lawyer for the hospital said the judge's order prohibits the city from selling the hospital while the issue is still being fought in court. But the injunction does not stop the city from appointing new members to the hospital's board of trustees as well as changing city ordinance to expand the size of the board.

North Kansas City city leaders say that the city owns the hospital and they want to take more control of the hospital in a time of increased competition and health-care reform.

The North Kansas City Council quickly voted Wednesday to expand the size of the hospital's board of directors to 15. The board previously had 11 seats with two vacancies.

The council agreed to add eight members appointed by the mayor. City officials also several seated members are not actively participating in board matters. As a result, the seven active members will now have five new colleagues.

One council member voted against the expansion.

The city released the following statement after the judge's ruling:

"We appreciate the Court's swift decision in this matter and its confirmation of North Kansas City's authority to appoint members to the North Kansas City Hospital Board of Trustees, as provided by state law, city ordinance and Hospital bylaws. Our hope is to have a more meaningful discussion and a rational, thoughtful, and objective evaluation of the Hospital. It is in everyone's best interests to protect North Kansas City Hospital and ensure that it is best positioned to remain a vibrant part of our community well into the future."

The motion is part of the hospital's lawsuit to get a judge to decide that the city does not have the authority to sell the hospital under Missouri law. City officials deny that they have immediate plans to sell the hospital.

"It's absolutely untrue," said City Administrator Matt Shatto said. "It's fair to suggest that going back to June 19 of 2012 the City Council had tried to work with the current hospital board. We were greeted with litigation., a lawsuit by the hospital board three weeks after. That gives an indication of the willingness of the board to have meaningful dialogue with the city."

But others think the city does want to sell the hospital and use the money to fund improvements such as to infrastructure.

"We are pleased that Judge Alexander has stopped the city from taking any direct action to sell the hospital," said Peggy Schmitt, president and chief executive officer of North Kansas City Hospital in a written statement. "We are optimistic that any new board members appointed by the city will support the continuation of North Kansas City Hospital as a community hospital."

At the hearing, the city's attorneys said there was a strong likelihood that the city will amend its ordinance to increase the size of the board from 11 to 15 trustees. The North Kansas City Council posted on its website saying they will discuss the approval of eight new members to the hospital's Board of Trustees. According to a release from North Kansas City Hospital, the city has not appointed a new trustee since 2009.

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