Mercy and CoxHealth Announce Collaboration to Expand Children's Services

November 13, 2023

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Mercy and CoxHealth are excited to announce they are working together to expand children’s services for the Springfield region and surrounding communities. The two organizations are exploring new ways to build on the pediatric expertise each provides in a first-of-its-kind collaboration.

As part of this effort, Mercy and CoxHealth have issued a request for proposal (RFP), seeking a partner that is highly specialized in pediatric care. The two health systems currently have a strong group of pediatric clinicians, and the goal of the RFP is to align with a full-service pediatrics partner that can build on this foundation. 

This is the first time CoxHealth and Mercy have collaborated at this scale, and it marks a new chapter for health care in southwest Missouri. 

Mercy doctor's coat

“There is an air of collaboration in our community, and this is the next evolution,” said Max Buetow, president and CEO of CoxHealth. “We are thrilled with this first step and optimistic about what this means for the future of pediatric patients in our region.”

The idea to collaborate came about more than a year ago as Buetow and David Argueta, president of Mercy Springfield Communities, began talking about the region’s changing health care needs. 

“One of the first things we talked about was the need to address the gaps in pediatric care in Springfield,” said Argueta. While both hospitals have strong pediatric programs, neither offers the full range of care.

“Gaps in coverage mean we have to send patients back and forth between our two hospitals, and sometimes we have to send kids and families out of town for advanced care,” said Dr. John Burson, Regional Service Line Chair for Women and Children at Mercy Springfield Communities.

By teaming up to fill those gaps, CoxHealth and Mercy hope to find a way to bring a full range of pediatric care to Springfield so patients and their families can get the care they need close to home.

“Our hope is that by working together and by issuing the RFP, we can find a viable solution that transforms pediatric care for our region for generations to come,” said Argueta. “This project is closely tied to both of our missions, and I believe this could be a transformative opportunity for the Springfield region.”

Mercy doctor's coat

Mercy and CoxHealth have worked together to provide pediatric treatment to patients for many years, but the two systems now want to deepen their collaboration to expand care and reduce the number of kids who have to leave Springfield to receive specialty care. “This has the opportunity to make a significant positive impact,” said Dr. Kofi Asare-Bawuah, medical director for children’s services at CoxHealth. “We’ll be able to take what was already a strong foundation of pediatric care within Springfield and build on it to better meet the needs of kids across the region.”

As CoxHealth and Mercy have discussed ways to improve pediatric care, they have engaged key community partners in this process including the mayor’s office and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. These partners have provided helpful feedback and insight and will continue to engage as the conversation progresses. 

“Collaborative leadership is the secret sauce to our greatest successes as a community and as a region,” said Matt Morrow, president of Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. “Now, our two leading employers are boldly collaborating with each other and with the community to bring a once-in-a-generation transformative opportunity within reach.”

On Dec. 13, CoxHealth and Mercy will host a public listening session at Jarrett Middle School for the community to ask leaders questions regarding the project. The time and other details for the event will be shared soon.

As the collaboration progresses, CoxHealth and Mercy will provide community updates.

Mercy, one of the 20 largest U.S. health systems and named the top large system in the U.S. for excellent patient experience by NRC Health, serves millions annually with nationally recognized quality care and one of the nation’s largest Accountable Care Organizations. Mercy is a highly integrated, multi-state health care system including more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, convenient and urgent care locations, imaging centers and pharmacies. Mercy has 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, more than 4,000 physicians and advanced practitioners and more than 45,000 co-workers serving patients and families across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.