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Kirksville’s hospital plans to offer radiation oncology cancer care; Hannibal wants to stop them  

The dispute between two Northeast Missouri hospitals rages on. 

Last month, Missouri Times reported Hannibal Regional Medical Center had requested a $15 million line item for a radiation oncology unit, in Kirksville.

The requested funding for the “planning, design and construction equipment of a radiation oncology center” by Hannibal’s hospital system was an addition to House Bill 11, planned for a Senate floor substitute, which would have avoided vetting by the House and Senate Committees dealing with the budget process.

The creation of a new medical campus for Hannibal’s hospital in Kirksville would cause a duplication in services that could produce a financial hardship for both hospitals. Other hospitals in the region are facing possible closures, following the demise of Audrain Community Hospital, in Mexico.

Hannibal Regional’s bond rating has been downgraded twice since 2022 by Fitch Ratings, which stated that “…weak operating performance, investment market volatility and cash spend for two new cath labs and the purchase of land in Kirksville have caused balance sheet metrics to soften…” Skeptics of the expansion also are wary of Missouri taxpayers paying for an expansion that has yet to be approved.

“At worst, Hannibal is attempting to end-run the CON process and improperly ask the legislature to find there is need for another hospital in Kirksville,” said Chuck Hatfield, an attorney for Northeast Regional Medical Center. “That is not the proper role of the body. The law assigns that responsibility elsewhere. And, even if Hannibal were to obtain a CON, appropriating money for private purposes is prohibited by the Missouri Constitution.”

Northeast Regional Medical Center (NRMC) in Kirksville submitted a certificate of need application to replace a linear accelerator that was retired two years ago. Hannibal Regional Healthcare System filed opposition to NRMC’s efforts, essentially blocking NRMC’s plan to offer advanced radiation cancer treatments in Kirksville.

“We have been preparing to replace the radiation oncology equipment that was previously located on our campus and that was part of the cancer care services offered on our campus for the past 25 years,” said Patrick Avila, CEO of Northeast Regional Medical Center. “Our plans would keep local residents close to home for cancer care and we do not need state funding to make it happen.”

Last year, Gov. Mike Parson issued 201 line-item vetoes, totaling $555.3 million. Among those items was a no-interest loan to an aluminum smelter in rural southeast Missouri. The intention was to spur economic development, but critics said it was an unconstitutional effort to use state funds to support private interests.

The Certificate of Need process is the latest attempt by both hospitals to compete in the Kirksville market.