Three questions with ... Dennis McCulloch, Kansas University Hospital spokesman
The former top administrator of Kansas University Hospital is being paid $1.8 million to ensure that she won't work for a regional competitor, hire away hospital employees or disclose confidential information that could jeopardize the operation during the coming months or years.
And she'll be available to provide consulting services as needed, such as during ongoing negotiations regarding a proposed affiliation with St. Luke's Hospital.
The details are part of an agreement that Irene Cumming, who resigned effective June 30 as KU Hospital's president and chief executive officer, reached with leadership of the KU Hospital Authority.
The agreement, disclosed Friday with Cumming's consent,
outlines financial arrangements and procedural requirements for her transition from the hospital without the operation losing her expertise, knowledge and insights.
"She's the continuity," said Lawrence resident Bob Honse, among the authority directors who voted in March to support terms of the agreement, including its compensation. "The hospital has done incredibly well. : Her legacy is that she pulled together a tremendously dynamic team and turned that hospital around. Any way we can pick her brain is worthwhile."
Dennis McCulloch, a hospital spokesman, said that Cumming's insights would be crucial.
"She was obviously the point person for a lot of negotiations over the last year, over the affiliation agreements," said Dennis McCulloch, a hospital spokesman. "She was the point person for a lot of other negotiations as well that have not been concluded, and her understanding and her knowledge of those will be critical. And our need to use her as a resource to continue those negotiations is deemed very important."
The agreement, approved last month by both parties, stipulates that Cumming:
l Receive $1.8 million, equal to three years of salary. Cumming has received the check, which was to have been hand delivered July 1.
l Not work, in any capacity, for a hospital or medical center located within nine counties of the Kansas City metro area, including Douglas. The agreement does not prevent Cumming from keeping her current job, as president and CEO of the University HealthSystem Consortium, or for assisting with nonprofit organizations in the area.
l Not disclose any hospital-related confidential information for the next four years, without approval from the authority's chairman.
l Not work to hire any employee or former employee of the hospital or its affiliates for at least the next year. The prohibition covers anyone who has worked for or with the hospital at any point during the previous six months.
l Make herself "reasonably available" to the authority, as a consultant, for up to 10 hours each month for the next year. While Cumming would not receive extra payment for consulting - the fee is considered part of the $1.8 million outlined in the agreement - she would be eligible to be reimbursed for related out-of-pocket expenses and travel.
Details of the agreement could have been kept confidential by the hospital, but Cumming personally waived such privacy because, McCulloch said, she had "pledged transparency" in the matter.
Cumming resigned from the hospital amid tense negotiations regarding the hospital's relationship with Kansas University Medical Center, which staffs the hospital with doctors and medical students. KUMC leaders have advocated affiliating with St. Luke's in Kansas City, Mo., considered KU Hospital's chief competitor.
Cumming had cautioned that an affiliation could weaken the KU Hospital, an operation whose 2006 revenue of $540 million was up 185 percent from 1998. Cumming became the hospital's top administrator in 1996.
The separation agreement had been authorized during the hospital authority's March 19 board meeting, during which the board accepted Cumming's resignation. The board authorized its chairman, George Farha, to negotiate an agreement that would include a payment equal to three years of salary.
Money for the payment came from the hospital's operating budget, McCulloch said. The hospital does not receive tax money from the state of Kansas.