Topeka Senate action will be delayed at least until mid-February on a bill that would penalize the Kansas University Medical Center for not turning out a set percentage of family-practice physicans.
Sen. Roy Ehrlich, R-Hoisington, Senate Health and Welfare Committee chairman, said he would delay action on the bill until KUMC officials from the Kansas City and Wichita campuses meet with representatives of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians on Feb. 16 in Emporia to discuss options.
The announcement came following a Wednesday hearing in which Dr. James Price, dean of the School of Medicine at KUMC, asked the panel to delay the bill so that other ideas can emerge to solve the state's shortage of family-practice physicians.
"We believe the bill would not accomplish its stated goal and, indeed, might do just the opposite," Price told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
The committee chairman's decision to delay action on the bill, however, was tempered with a warning.
"At the present time, all we're hearing is that everything is rosy and we're going to work this problem out," Ehrlich said. "But I assure you, that whatever the report is, if there is no advancement after their meeting, we'll go back to the bill, because this bill is a good bill.
"But we're going to see what the compromise is between the two groups."
THE BILL would require KUMC to graduate at least 5 percent more primary-care physicians in the 1996 fiscal year than the 1995 fiscal year or suffer a 10 percent cut in funding.
The bill is designed to spur action on solving the state's doctor shortage in rural areas.
Richard Morrisey, acting director of the state Department of Health and Environment's Office of Local and Rural Health Systems, told the committee that a 1990 report found that 64 of the state's 105 counties are medically underserved and that the problem has grown worse since then.
"It is no overstatement to say that Kansas is on the threshold of a crisis in terms of access to medical care," Morrisey said.
Price told the committee that he thought the "family" of groups, organizations and institutions interested in solving the problem can work out a plan.
"WITHOUT question, there are some things that we can do to influence a student's choice as to ultimate residency, and we'll intensify and expand the efforts to do those things," Price said. However, he said the debt medical students incur during their training which averages about $46,000 per student and individual preferences will influence a student's specialty.
Price gave the committee information that showed of the 193 KUMC graduates in 1991, 45 students, or 23.3 percent, entered family-practice residency.
Meanwhile, Price said he has charged KUMC's curriculum committee to review the training it gives to students with two objectives in mind.
"First, they must, in the next six months, come up with a plan aimed at introducing first-year students to patient contact that will be continued throughout the rest of the next two years," he said. That contact will help to keep the students interested in the family-practice specialty, he said.
Secondly, he said the curriculum committee will review the entire curriculum to see how it meets the current demands.