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Cox, Mercy issue dueling statements on recently-announced pediatric care partnerships

Mercy Hospital Springfield is shown on March 19, 2024.
Michele Skalicky/KSMU
Mercy Hospital Springfield is shown on March 19, 2024.

Two major Ozarks health systems shared a rhetorical rivalry this week. After Springfield-based CoxHealth announced a new partnership with St. Louis Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, Mercy Southwest Missouri Communities responded with a written statement that Cox officials later deemed “misleading.”

After a previously-announced pediatric care deal with Mercy Southwest Missouri fell through earlier this year, on Tuesday CoxHealth announced they’re teaming up with St. Louis Children’s Hospital to create a new standalone pediatric clinic.

Cox shared few details but said they’ve signed a letter of intent and hope to finalize their agreement with the St. Louis hospital, part of the BJC Health System, by early fall. Their goal is to keep Ozarks families from having to travel very far for children’s medical care.

Mercy responded in a written statement Tuesday afternoon referencing their own deal with a pediatric hospital in Kansas City, announced back in March.

In part, Mercy’s statement read, “We wish CoxHealth would have joined us in welcoming the pediatric partner our community clearly voiced was their preference, which is Children’s Mercy Kansas City, the No. 1 children’s hospital in Missouri. We understand that CoxHealth’s existing relationships may not have allowed for that, as that became clear several months ago."

Tuesday evening, Cox officials responded with a second statement saying “no pre-existing relationships” influenced their decision to work with St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Cox officials said they were disappointed in what they called “the misleading claim that CoxHealth was motivated by anything other than what is best for pediatric patients and their families."

The now-scuttled pediatric partnership between Springfield-based Cox and Mercy — a major announcement late last year — ended March 19 when Mercy opted to go with Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

At the time, Mayor Ken McClure told the Springfield Daily Citizen that he was "surprised" and "extremely disappointed" that the Cox-Mercy partnership fell through.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.