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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

KU Hospital Authority questions won’t be answered soon

August 11, 2007

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Kansas University Hospital leaders are not expecting questions surrounding membership on the nonprofit hospital's operating board to be fully answered anytime soon.

Dennis McCulloch, a spokesman with the hospital, said he would not expect any new members to be appointed by the governor until after a deal is reached on a new affiliation agreement between KU Hospital and the Kansas University Medical Center.

That's consistent with what the governor's office has previously said. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has said it is important to have continuity on the board while the important negotiations are under way.

But one question that has been hanging over the board has been answered. KU Provost Richard Lariviere can't serve as an ex officio voting member of the KU Hospital Authority.

Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison issued an opinion saying Lariviere wasn't legally entitled to the position on the board.

Lariviere and other KU leaders had argued that he was, but several members of the hospital board had challenged that assertion. Morrison was emphatic that Lariviere did not hold one of the six positions that entitle a person to serve as an ex officio, voting member of the board.

"The answer is clearly no," Morrison wrote in the opinion that was released in May.

The six ex officio voting members of the board are required to be the KU chancellor, executive vice chancellor of the Kansas University Medical Center, executive dean of the KU School of Medicine, chief of staff of KU Hospital's medical staff, president of the hospital authority and dean of the KU School of Nursing.

But Lariviere's removal from the board does not answer all the questions. That's because Barbara Atkinson serves both as vice chancellor of KUMC and as dean of the School of Medicine. That has created the question of whether Atkinson should be allowed to have two votes on the board.

McCulloch said the hospital board hadn't yet dealt with that issue.

"Dr. Atkinson has not raised that issue with the board," McCulloch said. "When it is raised, the board will address it."

McCulloch said the board's attorneys have researched the issue, but he declined to comment on what they had found.

Currently there are five members on the 19-member board who are due either to be reappointed or leave the board. Those positions are appointed by the governor. There had been controversy surrounding those positions because several legislators question whether the governor was following the proper procedure for appointing or reappointing members.

A technical attorney general's opinion was released on that subject as well in June. Following that opinion, Republican and Democratic leaders of the Kansas Senate urged Sebelius and hospital leaders to meet and get the differences resolved.

"The KU Hospital is a jewel in the crown of the Kansas health care system and must not be hamstrung by political or legal bickering and disputes," wrote Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, in a joint statement. "We believe this opinion provides all of us the opportunity for a clean start with respect to the process used for filling vacancies on the board."

Staff writer Scott Rothschild contributed to this report.

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