The U.S. News & World Report ranking that placed Kansas University Hospital as 30th on the list of the nation's best heart and heart surgery hospitals should be great news to all those interested in quality health care.
In addition, this news should generate pride among Kansans for the accomplishment of KU Hospital staff members, doctors, nurses, support staff and those serving as directors of the KU Hospital Authority. At the same time, while there is reason for optimism about the future, there also is deep concern.
If the hospital staff is allowed to continue to pursue excellence, the hospital is likely to be recognized in many other areas. However, with the current powerful, organized effort to weaken or handcuff KU Hospital in order to strengthen St. Luke's Hospital, there is reason to wonder about KU Hospital's future excellence.
KU Hospital's former president and CEO, Irene Cumming, is a casualty of the St. Luke's effort, resigning her position rather than agree to the giveaway to St. Luke's. She was recognized as one of the nation's outstanding and most promising hospital executives, but she realized she would be forced out if she did not resign.
She and others were, and are, aware of the efforts by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to pack the hospital board with individuals who will go along with the plan - approved and engineered by KU Medical Center Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson, Chancellor Robert Hemenway, the governor, a handful of Kansas City leaders and others - which Cumming said would significantly weaken the hospital.
Now, she is gone, after amassing a superior record in building the hospital's physical plant as well as the excellence of its services. Will Cumming's successor, Bob Page, be able to stand up to the giveaway pressures, and will KU Hospital Authority board members continue to make the hospital's strength and excellence their No. 1 mission?
There is a danger if the governor figures out a way to manipulate the process by which hospital board members are nominated and appointed in order to place her favorite individuals on the board. She's tried it before.
There is a powerful network of people in Kansas City, on Mount Oread and among those controlled by the governor who see nothing wrong with weakening KU Hospital in order to strengthen St. Luke's and try to make friends among some of the heavyweights. Who knows what rewards may be offered in exchange for falling in line with the giveaway. So far, threats and pressure tactics have proven to be hollow, and false claims have been exposed.
Those interested in the welfare of the hospital, its continued drive to achieve excellence and its position as a significant asset for the state of Kansas, rather than merely a piece in a political/medical jigsaw puzzle in Kansas City, should be alert to whatever efforts are made in the coming weeks and months to weaken the hospital. They should be supportive of Page and his administrative staff, listen and pay attention to Kansans in the medical professions who have opposed the giveaway and be supportive of the present hospital board.
Given the ability to grow in every respect, there is every reason to believe KU Hospital will receive added national recognition in the years to come. There is great excitement and enthusiasm among the hospital's staff; it would be a shame if selfish interests, political dreams and egos were allowed to deliberately stunt and damage KU Hospital.