Mayor Brian Treece dissolved the Task Force on Medical Tourism, but he said the city's effort to brand Columbia the medical center of Missouri will continue.
Assembled by Treece in August of last year, the task force — composed of eight members of Columbia professionals in the medical, tourism and hospitality industries — had been holding meetings and conducting surveys to give recommendations to the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau on how to attract more people seeking medical treatment to the city.
Treece announced his decision to disband the task force at a Monday evening work session.
"I'd rather not recreate that task force," Treece said.
Instead, he said the initiative will move forward with an informal committee.
The task force's chairman, Guy Collier, an attorney who specializes in nonprofit health systems, moved to Kansas City in late May and resigned.
Also, Treece said, task force member Kate Pitzer, in-house counsel for Boone Hospital Center, expressed her wish to resign from the group to avoid a conflict of interest, as her husband is Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer.
Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Amy Schneider, who updated the council on the initiative at the work session, said the task force hasn't met since February and that she wants guidance from the council on the next step for the project.
"This is an extremely exciting opportunity for Columbia," Schneider said. "I don’t want to do something that will sink this, basically."
According to a report from the bureau, the task force recommended the city explore two options:
- Hiring an outside firm to collaborate with medical facility and touring staff to develop a marketing plan and to create an internet portal for people traveling to Columbia for medical treatment using existing partners and Columbia hotels.
- Hiring a third-party analyst to conduct feasibility research to see whether Columbia is fit to become a medical destination.
Schneider said the task force is still unclear how to fund the projects, how to measure success and who would manage the projects.
According to the report, an outside analysis would provide an objective view on the situation and increase transparency and public input. An expert third-party service would also allow more medical and hospital partners to be considered, Schneider said.
The council members and the city staff also discussed the possibility of combining the two options, looking for a firm that can conduct a feasibility study as well as develop a marketing plan.
Schneider said the bureau will ask task force members to suggest people for the informal committee. It will also look to hold hearings to receive public input, she said.
The bureau also plans to submit a request for quotation to bid out the consulting job to an outside firm, she said.
Treece reiterated his belief that there's a great potential for Columbia as a medical destination.
In February, the task force reported that the initiative should focus first on a 25-county area surrounding Columbia as "the most likely source of new patients," according to previous Missourian reporting. The report did not specify to which 25 counties it was referring, and a list was not available Monday.