UAMS and St. Vincent clarify cooperation

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - It started with a question answered by Dr. Dean Kumpuris, a Little Rock Board Member and St. Vincent doctor, while speaking at a Hillcrest Residents Association meeting.

"If this merger,St. Vincent's, if this comes about, all St. Vincent would do is manage a hospital," said Kumpuris. "It would manage the university hospital?" queried resident Joan Coleman. "It would manage the hospital, not the medical school," responded Kumpuris.

The next day, Arkansas Times reporter Max Brantley wrote a blog about the meeting and called into question how such an agreement could work.

Until that exchange, all folks had heard is that a conversation about a partnership had been opened between the two hospitals. There was no talk of a merger. There was no talk of St. Vincent managing part of UAMS.

KATV asked both UAMS and St. Vincent to clarify.

"We're still in the exploratory process, so we've literally had no discussions about governance or leadership or ownership or structure," said St. Vincent President and CEO Peter Banko.

The letter of intent only released a month ago, Banko says the details are still unclear. However, that being said, Banko didn't shy away from the fact that he believes management is a strength St. Vincent brings to the table.

"We definitely know how to run hospitals and physician clinics," said Banko.

That brings us back to the blog post questions that started this whole story. Can a private Catholic hospital work in harmony with a public hospital? Banko says it can.

"We said very early on though, we're going to maintain the public identity of UAMS and the Catholic identity of St. Vincent, and neither one of us is going to do anything to compromise that," said Banko.

Here's how UAMS responded, "There has been no change in UAMS' position. We're not considering a merger or any scenario that would put UAMS services under the governance of another entity."