Topeka — Key legislators Thursday sought to put the brakes on the proposed affiliation between Kansas University Medical Center, KU Hospital and Missouri-based St. Luke's Hospital.
"Based on what is listed in their letter of intent, I don't see any benefit to Kansas in the partnership with St. Luke's," said House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls.
Neufeld said the Kansas Legislature should be part of the negotiations, to protect hundreds of millions of dollars that Kansas taxpayers have invested in the KU institutions.
"This could undo all of the good that has been done at KU Hospital these last 10 years," Neufeld said, noting the hospital's improved fiscal condition.
Neufeld filed legislation last month that would require legislative approval before proposed affiliations are made between the medical center and other health care entities.
A hearing on the bill is scheduled next week by the House Health and Human Services Committee, which also is trying to slow the partnership talks.
The chairwoman of that committee, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, noted that the state appropriates $248 million per year to the medical center.
"We should have input and oversight of these Kansas investments," Landwehr said.
The committee introduced a resolution urging those involved in the negotiations "to wait on committing these Kansas assets until we have had the chance to review their proposal," she said.
Landwehr said it also was troubling that KU would pursue affiliation talks while the Legislature was considering Neufeld's bill to require legislative approval of any partnerships.
But other legislators and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius have been supportive of KU's efforts to build affiliations with other organizations.
In a December interview, Sebelius said broader affiliation agreements would benefit the state, improve patient care and help KU's effort to be designated a national cancer center.
"I'm very encouraged with the conversations going on and the opportunities that are there," she said at the time.
But Neufeld said he was concerned that having students from KU work as interns at St. Luke's would have a negative effect on health care in Kansas.
"I am not opposed to KU Hospital and KU Medical Center expanding their research programs and facilities, but this is not about research - this is about siphoning off interns to St. Luke's," Neufeld said.