Kansas and regional news

Kansas and regional news

Hospital chief says affiliation too risky

March 6, 2007


Representatives from KU Medical Center visit the state capitol today

Representatives from the KU Medical Center were at the Capitol today - one week after a controversial suggestion to sell the hospital. Enlarge video

Coming up

The Kansas Board of Regents will testify to the House Government and Efficiency Committee on Wednesday and KU Medical Center on Thursday.

KU Medical Center and KU Hospital also will testify Thursday to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

— Several lawmakers Monday issued warnings to Kansas University School of Medicine over its proposed affiliation with St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

The dispute is over whether the affiliation would hurt Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., which counts St. Luke's as its major competitor.

Irene Cumming, chief executive of the KU Hospital, told members of the House Government Efficiency and Technology Committee that the move would prove harmful.

"Right now, KU Hospital is the only one at risk to lose in the deal," Cumming said.

Her nearly two hours of testimony kicked off a week of inquiry into the negotiations.

Rep. Jim Morrison, R-Colby, who is chairman of the committee, said he would like to see any decision by the KU School of Medicine on the affiliation postponed until more is known.

"I do know there is some angst on this," Morrison said.

Others displayed heartburn, too. State Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, said he would be "quite disturbed" if the KU School of Medicine entered into an agreement with St. Luke's over KU Hospital's protest, noting that Kansas taxpayers pump hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support KU.

Broader collaborations

But KU executives have argued that broader collaborations with regional hospitals, such as St. Luke's, are needed to improve health care in the area, develop a world-class life sciences research center and win designation as a National Cancer Center.

In addition, new partnerships will allow KU to train 100 additional doctors annually and gain $150 million in new support for research from the private Stowers Institute in Kansas City, Mo., and other entities, KU officials have said.

Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, attended Monday's meeting but won't testify until later in the week.

Later she told reporters, "I want to be sure that KU Hospital is not hurt. That is going to be very important. They are absolutely crucial to the education of our medical students."

But Cumming, who led KU Hospital as it rose from near-financial ruin in 1998 to its current position as a leading community hospital, disagreed.

"It's unusual to have your School of Medicine partnering with your competition," she said. Under the proposed affiliation, she said, KU Hospital would have to share its university brand with St. Luke's.

She said St. Luke's also would have greater flexibility to recruit physicians, "which could remove the university's incentive to aggressively recruit a replacement at KU Hospital." Under that scenario, she said, she feared losing specialty programs to St. Luke's.

Calling the shots

Cumming said the affiliation proposal is being driven by Kansas City, Mo., officials who believe that for the Stowers Institute to flourish, the KU School of Medicine must receive designation as a National Cancer Center. The way to do that, their thinking goes, is to work with St. Luke's.

"I disagree totally with that," Cumming said. "We do not need the Kansas University School of Medicine and St. Luke's affiliation to achieve national cancer designation."

Cumming said in order to show good faith to the KU School of Medicine, the KU Hospital proposed paying the School of Medicine $400 million over 10 years if the hospital remained the primary teaching hospital for KU and would be the lead clinical facility for National Cancer Institute designation.

But Cumming said that deal was rejected.

Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, said that wasn't necessarily the case and that discussions were still under way.

Cumming also said KU Hospital and the School of Medicine were far apart in negotiations with a March 31 deadline set by supporters of St. Luke's.

In addition, she worried that today was scheduled as the final day of substantive negotiations. But Atkinson said more talks could take place and that today was just the final day of negotiations with a third-party consultant present.

Doctors have questions

Several high-ranking lawmakers and doctor groups, including the Kansas Medical Society, Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and doctors at KU Hospital, also have expressed concern about the proposal to increase working relationships with St. Luke's and other Kansas City-area partners.

They have said that while increasing research capabilities is important, they fear the move could take away from one of the core missions of KU School of Medicine, which is training physicians to provide health care to Kansas citizens.

Morrison, the committee chairman, said he hoped the meetings would clear the air on what is going on "and make a win-win out of this."


granny 11 years, 3 months ago

St. Luke's is a better hospital - why wouldn't KU want to work with them? Makes no sense to me. I have used both hospitals. A short story - I was at KU Cardiology doing some tests and was placed in a room and told to sit in this reclining chair where they were going to start an IV drip. The room seemed so cluttered; all the cupboard doors were open with many open packages, bottles, etc. sitting on the counters; there were 8 or 10 IV stands just pushed into the room - all in array; and then I looked down at the sides of this recliner - it had some sort of drippings going down both sides of the chair with dirt and grime mixed in; down the inside of this recliner was used alcohol pads, tape, protective caps from the needles and Lord knows what else. It was so bad I almost got sick to my stomach. I think KU could use some hints.

caveatguy 11 years, 3 months ago

Lets see. Hemenway is totally in charge of the academic side of the Medical Center. He is also on the Hospital Board that hires Irene Cumming and runs the KU Hospital.

Why did this conflict between these two entities develop. And why isn't HE testifying in front of this committee. This is public money.

ed 11 years, 3 months ago

It is a two way road. St Luke's has as much to lose as KU Hospital. Collaboration will improve both KU Hospital AND St. Luke's. This is the best possible outcome for both hospitals!

At many of the best teaching schools in the country (like KUMC), affiliation is made with multiple hospitals. This leads to better education for the medical students & residents, which leads to better hospitals, and improves health care for the citizens of the state.

Irene wants to have the only affiliation agreement for the benefit of KU Hospital. But she should look past her hospital's gain, past her own ego, and want to help the healthcare system for Kansans.

Collaboration will only improve health care in Kansas. It can only improve the KU Med Center. Collaboration and multi-hospital affiliation can only improve the education of the doctors that the hospital trains.

Richard Boyd 11 years, 2 months ago

As it turns out now that Ms Cumings is KAPUT, everything seems to be coming together nicely...

All the KU hospital has done since becoming independent is to squeeze the access to patients for medical students. After all they are now for profit teaching is now second.

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