Archive for Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Feud persists between KU Medical Center and KU Hospital

March 13, 2007

Partners for 100 years, the Kansas University Medical Center and KU Hospital appear to be going their separate ways.

And the split isn't pretty.

All last week, the sides lined up against each other in legislative committee meetings to tell their side of the story.

Toward the end of the week, there was little satisfaction.

The powerful House Appropriations Committee had threatened KUMC's funding, and legislation to sell KU Hospital had gained surprising staying power.

"I really prefer these issues not have to be addressed by the Kansas Legislature," House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said. "But if our concerns cannot be laid to rest, the Kansas Legislature will be forced to protect the interests of the people of Kansas."

The dispute arose after KUMC's School of Medicine signed a letter of intent for an education and research affiliation with St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Under the proposal, the medical school's dean will be able to grant faculty titles to members of St. Luke's staff and will consult with St. Luke's to determine where its academic programs should be housed.

St. Luke's will be able to call itself a "major academic teaching and research hospital of the KU Medical Center."

Medical center officials say the affiliation is necessary to lure substantial private research dollars, win designation as a national cancer center and anchor life science research in the region.

Officials at KU Hospital, the primary teaching and research hospital of KUMC's School of Medicine, say the deal holds little good for them.

KU Hospital has risen from near economic ruin in 1998 to become a substantial area hospital. One of its primary competitors is St. Luke's.

Irene Cumming, president and chief executive officer at KU Hospital, said the affiliation could hurt the hospital's ability to recruit and train doctors, and she feared certain programs would be taken to St. Luke's.

Her criticism of the proposed link with St. Luke's was well-received by some lawmakers.

"After three days of hearings outlining negotiations between the entities, I am unsure if the partnerships will benefit Kansas," said Rep. Jim Morrison, R-Colby, chairman of the House Government Efficiency and Technology Committee.

Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the medical center, however, said the playing out of the feud before the Legislature hasn't hurt the proposed affiliation.

She said she would just keep working to provide information to lawmakers.

"We certainly care what the Legislature thinks, but we are just going ahead trying to come to a win-win solution," she said.

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