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Archive for Tuesday, April 3, 2007

KUMC affiliation holds up budget process

April 3, 2007

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— After 22 rounds of talks stretched over days of meetings, House and Senate negotiators failed Monday to sign off on a budget because of the proposed affiliation between the Kansas University Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital.

"The future of medical education in Kansas is at stake," House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said.

As lawmakers raced to a deadline, members of a House-Senate conference committee resolved a handful of issues, including a proposed 2 percent pay raise for state employees, but came to a crashing halt over the affiliation.

KUMC has proposed a research and teaching agreement with Kansas City, Mo.-based St. Luke's, saying the affiliation will broaden the medical center's life sciences capabilities and help it win designation as a national cancer center.

But the proposal has been criticized by the medical center's primary partner, KU Hospital, which competes with St. Luke's.

And some lawmakers have said they are concerned that KUMC's emphasis on research and partnering with Missouri entities will have a negative effect on health care training in Kansas.

The House budget-writers wanted to add language to the proposed budget that would require any affiliation between KUMC and St. Luke's be approved by a majority of the Kansas Board of Regents and the KU Hospital.

But Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, R-Thayer, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said that would be unfair to the medical center.

"That would be giving (KU Hospital) a veto vote," he said.

Umbarger insisted that the language be omitted from the budget, changed to only require approval from the regents or discussed again during the wrap-up session, which starts April 25.

"You're willing to hold up the budget process?" asked House Appropriations Chairwoman Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington.

Umbarger said it appeared the medical center and KU Hospital were getting close in their negotiations and that it would be better if the Legislature didn't interfere.

Both sides agreed to meet today to continue working on the issue.

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