Archive for Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Legislators brandish the stick: loss of $116M in KUMC funding

March 13, 2007

Kansas lawmakers Friday dropped the ultimate threat on Kansas University Medical Center.

The medical center would face losing all its state funding -- $116 million -- if it signs an affiliation agreement with St. Luke's Hospital that a majority of KU Hospital board members don't like.

That's according to language approved by the House Appropriations Committee for the proposed budget that starts July 1.

KUMC's School of Medicine is seeking a research and education affiliation with Kansas City, Mo.-based St. Luke's.

But KU Hospital, the primary teaching hospital of the School of Medicine, has said the affiliation would hurt it because it competes with St. Luke's.

State Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, vice chairman of the appropriations committee, proposed the proviso that was added to the recommended budget.

"I just want to make sure that everyone that is a primary stakeholder in that has an opportunity to weigh in on that issue," Tafanelli said.

But state Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, a member of the committee, opposed the measure, saying later, "I don't like to hold agencies hostage."

Ballard said KU School of Medicine was aware of concerns about the affiliation expressed by the Legislature and would address those concerns without the need of a budget proviso.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, said the proviso would stifle the efforts of the School of Medicine, which says it needs to partner with St. Luke's to increase its patient base, lure private research dollars from Missouri and gain designation as a national cancer center.

Tafanelli's measure was approved on an 11-10 vote with Committee Chairwoman Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, voting in favor of it to break a tie.

She said several legislators had told her of concerns from constituents about the proposed affiliation.

The appropriations bill goes to the full House this week for consideration.

The proviso states that KUMC would get no state funding if it affiliates with St. Luke's unless it also gets majority support from the KU Hospital board, Kansas Board of Regents and Wichita Center for Graduate Medical Education Board.

Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the medical center, said the measure "needs to be reviewed to fully assess its intended and unintended consequences."

But she added that the School of Medicine doesn't want to harm KU Hospital.

"We are working diligently to reach an agreement with the KU Hospital leadership that will allow all of us to move forward in a unified front," she said in a prepared statement.

Irene Cumming, president and chief executive officer of KU Hospital, said the proviso shows that many lawmakers are uncomfortable with the proposed affiliation.

"It clearly reflects that they are hearing the concerns that I, the Kansas Medical Society and physicians have been raising," Cumming said.

Schwartz, the committee chairwoman, said the number of provisos -- three in total -- that lawmakers tacked on the budget that affect the medical center tell her there are concerns that need to be addressed.

The other two provisos are aimed at guaranteeing that KUMC's program in Wichita wouldn't lose residents and telling the medical center to evaluate opportunities to provide more doctors for Kansas.

The budget committee action followed a week's worth of meetings before legislative committees about the proposed affiliation.

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