Kansas University leaders Thursday unveiled parts of their long-anticipated plan to affiliate with a private hospital on the Missouri side of the state line.
But key Kansas legislators said the process is moving too quickly. Those lawmakers say the Legislature should play a role in any negotiations.
And leaders at KU's longtime partner hospital - who fear the move will weaken their programs and their standing in the community - said the biggest questions about the plan remain unanswered.
For several months, KU Medical Center, in Kansas City, Kan., has been exploring new alliances with hospitals in the Kansas City, Mo., area.
"It's now into the public, in terms of what's going on, what the issues are," said Dennis McCulloch, a spokesman for KU's longtime affiliate, KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. "It's no longer hidden."
Under a letter of intent released Thursday afternoon, KUMC in Kansas City, Kan. - the medical arm of KU that includes the School of Medicine - will enter into an agreement with St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. That agreement would pave the way for the school and the hospital to collaborate on medical education and research.
For example, the medical school's dean will be able to grant faculty titles to members of St. Luke's staff and will consult with St. Luke's to determine where its academic programs should be housed.
St. Luke's will be able to bill itself as "a teaching and research hospital of the KUMC," or if it meets certain terms, a "major academic teaching and research hospital of the KUMC."
Areas of emphasis for St. Luke's research with KU would include cancer, neurology and cardiovascular medicine.
KUMC signed a similar letter of intent with KU Hospital that was announced Thursday. Both letters outline what each hospital staff members can and cannot do - such as recruiting each other's staff members - and set a deadline of March 31 for negotiations to be finalized.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, KU Hospital CEO and president Irene Cumming listed six major factors that remain unresolved - including whether KU Hospital has a leadership role in cancer research, how much KU Hospital will support the medical school financially and how many medical residents will be kept in Kansas.
"These issues are critical to the future of the hospital and its medical staff under the proposed affiliations," Cumming wrote. "At this time, we are not close to an agreement on these issues."
Key points of agreement
¢ KU Hospital no longer has an exclusive arrangement with KU Medical Center but remains the center's primary teaching and research hospital.¢ The agreement is meant to improve the region's life science research initiatives.¢ The pact is meant to enhance educational and research opportunities for faculty, residents and students.¢ St. Luke's Hospital gets to use KU's marketing brand, stating that the institution is "A teaching and Research Hospital of the KU Medical Center."¢ Neither institution can interfere with any of the others when recruiting physicians.Source: Letters of intent between KU Medical Center and KU Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said the affiliation with St. Luke's is necessary if KUMC wants to reach its goal to have its cancer center designated as a "comprehensive" center by the National Cancer Institute.
"You need to be able to show that you are studying and contributing to an improvement in the treatment of cancer patients more than just at your own hospital," he said.
Kansas City businessman Irv Hockaday announced the letters of intent Thursday morning at an economic development summit in Kansas City, Mo., attended by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt.
In some sense, KU Hospital spokesman McCulloch said, Thursday's development was welcome because it shines light onto the negotiations.
"In that we are able to honestly talk about what the issues are ahead, it's a good day," McCulloch said. "We've wanted to be able to openly have these discussed and evaluated by the leaders throughout the state and the metropolitan area and to really open the discussion of how we get these done."
McCulloch said coming weeks would be filled with negotiations.
"We still hope there's a situation here that will wind up as a winning situation for everybody, especially our partners at the medical center," he said.
KU Hospital concerns
KU Hospital CEO and President Irene Cumming said these six major points remain unresolved:
¢ Clearly defining what it means for KU Hospital to be KU's "Primary Academic Clinical, Teaching and Research Hospital."
¢ Creating a "level playing field" that allows the hospital to continue to grow.
¢ Figuring out how many medical residents are needed in Kansas, given the commitment of some to St. Luke's.
¢ Agreeing on a "fair plan of support" by KU Hospital for the medical center that doesn't create financial problems for the hospital.
¢ Finding a plan to compensate the hospital "should financial harm result" from the proposed affiliation.
¢ Defining KU Hospital's "leadership role" in the cancer program.
KU Medical Center affiliation
- Legislators voice concern about KU Medical Center action (02-02-07)
- Universityof Kansas Medical Center / University of Kansas Hospital Letter ofIntent (.pdf)
- Universityof Kansas Medical Center / Saint Luke's Hospital Letter of Intent(.pdf)
- Statementby KU Hospital CEO Irene Cumming (.doc)
- Doctorsquestion KU Med proposal (01-31-07)
- Simons:Political 'interference' in educational matters sometimes calledfor(01-27-07)
- Proposalmandates permission for KU Med partnerships (01-20-07)
- KUleader shares medical center vision (01-11-07)
- KUHospital reports good fiscal year (12-19-06)