Archive for Saturday, June 23, 2007

Simons: KU’s $800 million research plan may be wishful thinking

June 23, 2007


First came the announcement about a secret plan to form an affiliation or collaboration between the Kansas University Medical Center, KU Hospital and Kansas City, Mo.'s St. Luke's Hospital.

What it amounted to was a plan to give away the KU Medical Center and KU Hospital to help strengthen St. Luke's. It was, and remains, a one-way street, with St. Luke's getting everything and KUMC, KU Hospital and the state of Kansas getting little if anything. At this stage, it is unknown what incentives are being offered to KUMC Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson and whether there is some undisclosed payoff for her or the school that would cause her, along with Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, to be so obsessed in favoring the flawed plan.

The original plan called for St. Luke's to be designated as a major part of the planned cancer center. St. Luke's doctors would be able to say they were part of or affiliated with the KU Medical Center, and St. Luke's would be provided a number of KU medical residents every year. As yet, there is no firm written agreement between KU Hospital and the medical school or between the two KU entities and St. Luke's. The next KU Hospital board meeting is July 10, and there currently is no reason to believe there will be an agreement before that meeting.

One possibility is that the Medical Center might make a deal on its own with St. Luke's because Atkinson has said she doesn't have to tell KU Hospital people what she is doing.

Now comes the announcement of an $800 million plan for a massive expansion of KU's research facilities. According to various knowledgeable individuals, this new plan has little if anything to do with the current hospital debate. It is all about research.

Where is the $800 million coming from? According to those close to the scene, no hospital or clinical revenues are going to be used in raising the $800 million. So it's all going to have to come from gifts, grants or the Legislature. Those promoting the plan talk about philanthropic giving of $100 million or so, (Is this in addition to the $150 million in gifts said to be coming for the Medical Center, KU Hospital and St. Luke's venture?) and they want a BIG contribution from the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

The Bioscience Authority has the potential of earning a great deal over the next seven years, but it certainly doesn't have that big of a bank account now. And it would have to turn its back on other worthy projects throughout the state - not just in Johnson and Douglas counties - to provide big dollars to the KU research effort. It would all be a matter of priorities with many promising opportunities in other parts of the state probably being left out. What will state legislators say about that?

In regard to major additional Kansas legislative appropriations, there is one major roadblock. Several senior Kansas City players and some on Mount Oread have let it be known they believe the Legislature is dominated by "farmers" and people from western Kansas who are not smart enough to know about research and modern medical needs. This thinking has gotten back to the lawmakers, and it is not going to help those from KU or the Kansas City crowd who have their hands out for millions of Kansas tax dollars.

Did those planning the hospital merger or giveaway know a year ago they would be announcing an $800 million research deal a year later? Did they think they could force the hospital affiliation by tacking on the research project?

How are they going to pay for the massive research project with hundreds of new researchers, millions of dollars in new sophisticated equipment and many new buildings?

This may be the first hint of a new capital campaign to be launched by KU and the KU Endowment Association. With the poor morale among many on the KU campus, the negative fallout from fundraising tactics used by the KU athletic department, parents questioning ever-rising tuition costs, the growing unhappiness throughout the state about the KU-St. Luke's deal and a general lack of enthusiasm about KU's leadership, now would not seem the best time for a huge capital campaign.

KU Endowment officials won't say anything about an upcoming capital campaign, but it is believed there already are plans for the "silent" part of the campaign to get under way in a year and a half.

Getting back to the Medical Center matter, some in Kansas City say the current proposal calls for a sizable part of KU's cardiac research to be handed over to St. Luke's.

There is a big argument about who would have control or oversight of the KU doctors: the Medical Center or KU Hospital? This matter is far from being resolved as is the plan to give St. Luke's doctors the KU identification. Another point of contention is how much KU Hospital would pay the KU medical school each year. Atkinson turned down the first offer, saying there were too many strings attached.

One thing is certain, great pressure is going to be placed on Bob Page, Irene Cumming's successor as KU Hospital CEO, to give in to the Medical Center and St. Luke's plan. The majority of hospital board members remain opposed to the one-way street so there will have to be some major flip-flops for KU Hospital to agree to the ever-changing wish list of St. Luke's and Atkinson.

It's difficult to settle on an agreement when one party - St. Luke's and KU Medical Center - keeps changing its demands.

It is great that KU officials are dreaming and talking about a massive expansion of their research efforts. It's also great that KU Medical Center people are dreaming of earning the prestigious National Cancer Institute cancer center designation. These are two worthy goals that would benefit many if they become a reality.

Raising $800 million is a huge challenge and, at this time, it appears this is a lot of wishful thinking without firm commitments or possibilities for where this money will come from. In fact, one top KUMC official said he or she had no concrete idea where the money would come from.

The NCI designation could be achieved without the giveaway to St. Luke's. There is nothing that says providing KU-trained residents to St. Luke's is essential to get the NCI seal of approval. Broad and excellent research is the most important criteria, not whether St. Luke's has KU doctors.

Dreams and aspirations are good and are needed to achieve excellence, but there must be substance to these ideas; they can't be merely wishes, "pipe dreams" or efforts to make someone look good.

Seldom do deals, partnerships, alliances or collaborative efforts work out for the genuine benefit of all involved when such arrangements are achieved through threats, blackmail and political pressure.

KU has enough going for it that it shouldn't have to bend to every selfish pressure tactic or hollow promise by Missouri hospital and research center representatives or a handful of Kansas City business leaders. It is a good state-aided university and with vision, courage and bold, imaginative leadership, it has the potential to become an even finer institution.


Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 10 years, 7 months ago

If we had an honest board of regents Hemenway would have been history long ago. Atkinson needs to follow along with her stooge "Vice-Cancellor" (doesn't that give you the biggest giggle) Adkins.

Of course, we don't and now with Governor Roundheels picks on board, it will be worse yet.

KEITHMILES05 10 years, 7 months ago

This will be an epic battle now that legislators are involved. LIttle do KU leaders realize but the legislators can make it hell for them, and will.

Miles Nease 10 years, 7 months ago

"Several senior Kansas City players and some on Mount Oread have let it be known they believe the Legislature is dominated by "farmers" and people from western Kansas who are not smart enough to know about research and modern medical needs."

Truer words have never been spoken. Sixty percent of our Legislature lacks a college education.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 10 years, 7 months ago

The point being that those hayseeds control KU's budget, and if they get the impression that KU thinks they stink (and they have), the feeling will be reciprocated. What's making matters worse now is that they also hate the big city folks and Atkinson's associations with the KCMO crowd is not sitting well out on the farm.

They may not be educated, but they know what they know and what they know is that they don't like Atkinson and Hemenway. Apparently one can be uneducated and still smell incompetence a few hundred miles away.

Kudos to Simons for his continuing efforts to expose this bunch for the clowns they are.

JSpizias 10 years, 7 months ago

Take good notice of the photo of Atkinson and the titles of the two reports that flanked the photo of Atkinson in the article "$800M life science plan hatched" in Tuesday's LJW, "Time to Get it Right" and "Time to Get Things Done". These reports were developed by Benno Schmidt et al at the behest of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The Board of Directors of this foundation is here:

Note that this Board appears to have little or no representation of KC scientific leaders.

The later Schmidt Report is available here: or here:

If one is interested in understanding what is transpiring in KC regarding the issue of life science research and 800 M dollar plans, read this report. Atkinson is following the script laid out in the report quite closely. On page 32 and 33 of the report one finds the following statement:

"Discussion of a possible 'Research Triangle' in Johnson County, bringing together KU, K-State, and KUMC around cancer research technology, bioengineering, animal health, and agricultural biosecurity, and translational research should be encouraged by Kansas City. THE PROSPECT OF JOHNSON COUNTY TAX-BASE FUNDING TO SUPPORT THIS ENTERPRISE IS GREATLY TO BE ENCOURAGED". Johnson County property taxes have been increasing greatly, in some years at double digit rates. The powers that be are already lining up support with the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, to get their approval. Some of our commissioners have never seen a tax increase that they didn't love, increases that often are supported by the KC Star (the Publisher, Tully is on the Board of the GKCC foundation, the wife of one commissioner is on the Star editorial board). The total published budget of Johnson County increased from approximately 671 million in 06 to 768 million in 07. The Star characterized the 07 budget in an editorial as "a reasonable and prudent budget" that should be approved. The mean increase for years 05, 06, and 07 was approximately 11%. Look out Johnson County taxpayers! Here it comes again!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

There is a lot of interest in the Kansas City,Kansas Rosedale neighborhood area about some very big bucks that the KU Med Center is investing in that area. The Med Center is purchasing existing "office space" throughout the neighborhood which borders Mission.

Real Estate investors are beginning to pour rehab money into existing condos and other residential in that immediate area with the idea that larger salaries and human resources will be relocating. The rehabilitated condos are expected to sell for $180,000 up. Mayors and respective commissioners are expecting real estate values to rise. Existing resources are about to create new economic growth.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 10 years, 7 months ago

Beware the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. It "employed" David Adkins and his wife at one point (the point when he got in trouble with the Nader group). It frequently releases "reports" that essentially say what the KCMO establishment wants to hear. Its current head is Laura McKnight, daughter of Rob McKnight, guru to Dick Bond and the Johnson County Republican establishment. It's involvement is a sure sign this whole thing stinks. Ask not what KU med will do for you, ask what KU Med will do for the greasy pockets of the KCMO and Johnson County political establishments.

LJD230 10 years, 7 months ago

Prior to Dr. Atkinson's arrival, the academic and research reputation at the KU School Of Medicine was sixth rate. The efforts by the Vice Chancellor to enhance the rotten reputation of the school which preceded her arrival should be applauded. Chances are if all this drama were related to the care of pigs and research designed to improve their health, the hicks in Topeka would be falling over each other to fund the initiative. The choice is really very simple: ramp up the educational and research potential of the School of Medicine to train and provide physicians for Kansans or observe the school becoming marginalized and irrelevant regionally and nationally. The other choice is to close the school of medicine before the embarassment of failure takes hold. The monies saved by closing could be redirected to improving animal health and creating better crops for export to China.

To miss the opportunity to forge relationships which benefit the University of Kanas, the people of Kansas and the region--and this initiative does just that--will position the leadership of Kansas as the laughing stock of the nation just as they were when the evolution debate raged. How anyone can reasonably oppose plans and fund raising that will give some patina of respectability to the University of Kansas School of Medicine is almost as astonishing as Dolph's assertion, and I quote: "At this stage, it is unknown what incentives are being offered to KUMC Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson and whether there is some undisclosed payoff for her or the school that would cause her, along with Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, to be so obsessed in favoring the flawed plan." Is Dolph suggesting that these individuals will benefit financially from the proposed affiliation?

The plan is not flawed. The thinking of the people who oppose it is seriously askew and all intelligent Kansans should question the motivation of the naysayers.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 10 years, 7 months ago

How many times have we been told that we would be a laughingstock of the nation? Isn't that getting a little old, or are we really that stupid that we kowtow to arrogant schmucks who refer to the "hicks" in Topeka and appeal to "all intelligent Kansans"?

Do the hicks now include Anthony Hensley and Derek Schmidt? Is Paul Morrison now in league with the "hicks" after his decision the other day to hold Sebelius accountable to Kansas law? Is the water so bad over in Topeka that legislators of all political stripes and parties have now indicated their displeasure with the scandals this Atkinson woman has buried the Med School under and the governor's continued intransigence?

The naysayers have nothing to gain, but there's money a plenty available to the traitor who delivers the jewel of our health care system over to their Missouri benefactors.

Fairness952 10 years, 6 months ago

"Roundheels" is slang for a sexually promiscuous woman. It's a demeaning and disrespectful term to use to describe any woman, let alone the Governor of Kansas.

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