Someone should tell the Kansas Legislature's Joint Committee on Health Care Decisions for the 1990s that you catch more flies with sugar than with salt.
Meeting after the close of the 1991 legislative session, the committee members came up with an idea they believed would entice the Kansas University Medical Center to churn out more family practice doctors. Their plan was to cut the KUMC budget if at least 5 percent of its graduates don't enter its family practice training program.
If the attitude of the committee members is any indication of the attitude that greets potential physician recruits in rural areas, its little wonder they decide to locate elsewhere.
In reality, KUMC has made many efforts to increase its number of family practice graduates. The medical school's dean is a family physician, and family practice doctors are instructors at KU medical school campuses in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita. KU also was ranked by U.S. News and World Report magazine as sixth among 126 medical schools in the country at emphasizing primary care.
The committee is right to be concerned about producing more family practice doctors. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find such doctors, particularly in rural areas. Such positions put overwhelming responsibility and stress on doctors, often with limited monetary rewards. But there are other ways to address the issue.
Making the KUMC budget contingent on its ability to turn out family practice doctors may look like a quick fix, but such a measure would only be detrimental to the school. Cutting funds would hurt all the KUMC programs including family practice. And putting an artificial quota on family practice doctors might serve to lower rather than raise the prestige and desirability of that program.
Given the many vital issues facing the Kansas Legislature in its opening days, this is one proposal that doesn't deserve much time or consideration by lawmakers.