Archive for Saturday, January 27, 2007

Simons: Political ‘interference’ in educational matters sometimes called for

January 27, 2007


In an ideal education-political scenario, it is far better for politicians to stay out of the educational scene. Educational matters are better left to educational professionals rather than to have politics inserted into the scene.

This is in an "ideal" situation, but what is taking place in Kansas City relative to the Kansas University Medical Center, the KU Hospital, St. Luke's Hospital, Children's Mercy Hospital, Truman Hospital, the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation's Time to Get It Right and Time To Get Things Done reports, the Stowers Institute, St. Louis' Washington University and Barnes Hospital, and some Kansas City business and philanthropic leaders is not the normal, ideal situation.

There are those in Kansas City who want to force an affiliation between the KU Medical Center and KU Hospital with St. Luke's Hospital, and they are using the Time To Get It Right report as a crutch to have the KU Medical School provide interns and residents to St. Luke's Hospital.

The much heralded Time To Get It Right report focused on the importance of a joint effort to maximize research capabilities in Kansas City and to take advantage of the internationally recognized Stowers Institute. Little, if anything, was said about medical education. It was all about research.

However, St. Luke's proponents have seized the Time To Get It Right report and the subsequent Time To Get Things Done report as a means of securing top-flight residents and interns for their hospital. St. Luke's does not enjoy the top position it once occupied in Kansas City. The KU Medical Center and KU Hospital have become the No. 1 medical research and medical care facility in greater Kansas City, and St. Luke's wants to buy into the KU brand.

Because of the manner in which this effort was launched behind closed doors, the deliberate decision to exclude Irene Cumming, president and CEO of the KU Hospital, and the effort to keep many at the KU Medical School and KU Hospital in the dark was a major mistake.

This is particularly true considering Kansas taxpayers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the KU medical complex and a relative small group of individuals were planning and designing an affiliation with the KU medical operation with St. Luke's Hospital, Children's Mercy and Truman Hospital without any approval from the state Legislature or the Kansas Board of Regents.

There was no transparency in the deal. In fact, it was a behind-the-scene project from the outset, although when word of the plan became known, those pushing the effort tried to assure the public and others that they intended to let all relevant bodies know all details. Baloney!

Many at the KU Medical Center and KU Hospital were, and continue to be, opposed to the plan, which would call for medical education and the swapping of residents and interns to be a central part of the deal.

However, and this is important to remember, they are in full agreement with the plan relative to research.

Kansas legislators became aware of the efforts to get the KU Medical School tied in with St. Luke's, Children's and Truman hospitals and were not happy they had been kept in the dark.

Consequently, a bill has been introduced into the Kansas House requiring approval by state legislators before such a plan could be carried out. It is reported that the bill has a good chance of being passed in the House, but may face tougher sledding in the Senate with some pulling out all efforts to defeat this bill.

This is where it is unfortunate an educational-research matter becomes entangled in a state legislative session.

However, Kansas taxpayers should be appreciative of the efforts of some Kansas lawmakers to make sure what is being proposed in Kansas City, Mo., is good for the state of Kansas. There will be some in Kansas City who will be very critical of lawmakers becoming involved, suggesting the lawmakers don't know enough, or aren't smart enough, to act and/or vote in an informed way.

The St. Luke's group, along with several high profile Kansas City people are trying to suggest those questioning the deal are not motivated to try to cooperate, but rather are more interested in "retaining the status quo." They claim, "We can retain the status quo and we'll be all right, but if we collaborate, we can be great; we can be world class."

These individuals also said that if an agreement is not reached between KU Medical Center and the KU Hospital by an early date - some have said by Feb. 1 or Feb. 14, when Kansas and Missouri governors had planned to meet and make a big deal out of the agreement - KU leaders would drop the plan to affiliate with KU and shift to St. Louis, Washington University and Barnes Hospital.

There is one big flaw in this proposition. The deal Kansas City and St. Luke's people are suggesting between the St. Louis parties is not the same proposal that is being forced down the throats of the KU Medical Center and KU Hospital.

Those at KU questioning the proposal say they would be in 100 percent agreement if they were presented the plan which may be in the works for St. Louis if the sole focus is research.

Also, much is said about cancer research and there are those who claim St. Luke's record in cancer research is not sparkling. How would their input help KU's plan to eventually be designated as a national cancer center? Some claim KU does not have enough clinical patients needed for comprehensive cancer research but KU people say clinical arrangements with other Kansas City hospitals, without the medical tie demanded by St. Luke's, would provide ample patients for research.

Kansans should be worried about what is best for the state and what is best for the KU Medical Center and KU Hospital.

No one is opposed to research and what can be done to make the greater Kansas City area a true national leader in this field of research. At the same time, the manner in which this effort was hatched and conducted, the lack of openness, and the arrogance of many involved in the plan is distasteful and does not reflect credit on a few at the university or some in Kansas City.

There are far too many hidden reasons and motives in St. Luke's plan for the KU Medical School.


Richard Boyd 11 years, 1 month ago

"There will be some in Kansas City who will be very critical of lawmakers becoming involved, suggesting the lawmakers don't know enough, or aren't smart enough, to act and/or vote in an informed way."

Yep, in my book, that just about covers it, there is PLENTY of proof, JUST LOOK AROUND!

You did forget a couple of VERY important items however:

  1. They will invariably debate and vote on this issue based on input from those who do not like "wicked and evil science" in the first place (those who "take up collections" for the politicians).

  2. They will NOT make any effort to learn the REAL facts, but will simply parrot talking points provided by those mentioned above. Since they did not like the idea from the beginning.

  3. I am NOT from Kansas City, there are a LOT of people from all over the state that have the same skepticism regarding the legislature

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