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.
KU Medical Center affiliation
- Anatomyof a KU merger proposal (02-28-07)
- Boardwants to slow down hospital agreement (02-17-07)
- Regentscheck into Med Center (02-14-07)
- Aclinical triangle (02-11-07)
- Completetext of Chancellor Robert Hemenway's testimony
- Universityof Kansas Medical Center / University of Kansas Hospital Letter ofIntent (.pdf)
- Universityof Kansas Medical Center / Saint Luke's Hospital Letter ofIntent(.pdf)
Topeka 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.
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."