Kansas University Medical Center has signed letters of intent for affiliations with both KU Hospital - its long-standing partner - and with the private St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.
The announcement, made by Kansas City, Mo., businessman Irv Hockaday, came at an economic-development summit attended by both Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said this afternoon that some details of what the affiliations will look like haven't been finalized. "There are some issues that remain," Hemenway said. "We'll work to resolve those issues as we move on into the future."
"The letters sort of lay out the rationale behind what we're doing, but because the negotiations are still going on... all that we've done is to agree on these letters of intent," he said. "They basically have to do with the desire on the part of all the parties to have a nationally recognized medical center at KU to serve the Kansas City region and the people of the Kansas City area."
KU leaders released their letter of intent with St. Luke's shortly before 5 p.m.
The 8-page letter lays out details of what St. Luke's will and will not be able to do in its relationship with KU Med. For example:
* St. Luke's and KU Hospital wouldn't be able to recruit members of each other's staffs without the written agreement of the other hospital's CEO. They also would be prohibited from recruiting physicians outside Kansas City who are in active negotiations with the other hospital.
* KU Med will develop a plan by March 31 for apportioning residents and fellows between the hospitals.
* KU Hospital will be able to present itself as the "Primary Academic Clinical , Teaching and Research Hospital" of KU Med. St. Luke's will be able to bill itself as either "A Teaching and Research Hospital of the KUMC," or, if it meets certain terms, a "Major Academic Teaching and Research Hospital of the KUMC."
At KU Hospital, leaders didn't get a hold of the letter until late in the day and weren't yet prepared to make a detailed statement about it.
"We anticipate the analysis will continue through tomorrow," said Dennis McCulloch, a KU Hospital spokesman.
Despite the concerns among KU Hospital leaders that the deal could weaken their programs- and their claim that they've been shut out of the St. Luke's negotiations - McCulloch said today's news is a relief in one sense:
"It's now into the public, in terms of what's going on, what the issues are," he said. "It's no longer hidden."
The Kansas House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services introduced a resolution in committee today aimed at giving the Kansas Legislature an opportunity to protect Kansans' investments in the KU Medical Center and the KU Hospital Authority.
"The Legislature is responsible for approximately $248 million in state funds to the medical center," Chairwoman Brenda Landwehr said. "Our resolution urges those involved with negotiations to partner the center with out of state research and medical facilities to wait on committing these Kansas assets until we have had the chance to review their proposal. We should have input and oversight of these Kansas investments."
"It troubles me they appear to be moving forward to commit state assets without consulting the Kansas Legislature - especially knowing we are considering a bill that would require legislative approval of any partnerships between a state university hospital and other entities," said Landwehr.
The House Appropriations Committee introduced House Bill 2134 on Jan. 19. The bill was assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee. Landwehr said she hopes to hold a hearing on the bill next week.
Kansas University Hospital CEO and president Irene Cumming this afternoon released a statement saying she hadn't seen the final draft of the letter signed between KU Med and St. Luke's.
Cumming also listed six major issues still unresolved in her hospital's negotiations with KU Med.
"These issues are critical to the future of the hospital and its medical staff under the proposed affiliations," she wrote. "At this time, we are not close to an agreement on these issues."
The issues cited by Cumming are:
* "We must clearly define our status as the 'Primary Academic Clinical, Teaching and Research Hospital'," Cumming wrote.
* Creating a "level playing field" that allows the hospital to continue to grow.
* Figuring out how many residents are needed in Kansas, alongside the commitments made by KU Med to St. Luke's.
* Agreeing on a "fair plan of support" for the medical center that doesn't create financial problems for the hospital.
* Finding a plan to compensat the hospital "should financial harm result" from the proposed affiliation.
* Defining KU hospital's "leadership role" in the cancer program.
Cumming's statement points out that the letter of intent between KU Hospital and KU Med is not binding and hasn't yet been considered by the hospital's board.
"For a definitive agreement to be realized, the six issues listed above must (be) resolved to the Authority Board's satisfaction," she wrote. "Further, it is our expectation that KUMC will not finalize any agreement with Saint Luke's until all our issues are resolved."
Meanwhile, a group representing nearly 5,000 Kansas doctors expressed concern last week about the KU Medical Center's plans to launch an affiliation with St. Luke's.
"KU officials have not yet made it clear why an affiliation with St. Luke's, or any other hospital for that matter, is essential to KU's plans to participate in the greater Kansas City life sciences effort," members of the Kansas Medical Society say in a statement.
The Jan. 24 statement called for a more transparent discussion on the subject, which is controversial because some fear it would weaken KU's partner: KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.
After all, Kansas City, Mo.-based St. Luke's and KU Hospital are competitors, the statement noted - for patients, faculty, research funding and prestige.
"(A) hurried or rushed collaboration is a recipe for divisiveness and discontent," according to the statement. "If the plans and proposed affiliations are sound and consistent with the mission of the medical school, and if they produce benefits for the entire state, a more transparent, inclusive and deliberate discussion will help build support for the program."
The medical center, the medical research and teaching arm of KU, supplies faculty and students to the neighboring KU Hospital, which has been run independently since 1998.
KU's alliance with hospitals has been a topic of controversy since a 2005 report sponsored by the philanthropic Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The report, titled "Time to Get it Right," found that the medical center needed the capacity of all Kansas City's major hospitals- including St. Luke's, Truman Medical Center and Children's Mercy Hospital - in order to compete as a leading national medical center.