Archive for Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Doctors denounce KUMC affiliation plans

March 14, 2007

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— Lawmakers on Tuesday were stuck between dueling doctors fighting over the proposed affiliation between the Kansas University Medical Center and Kansas City, Mo.-based St. Luke's Hospital.

Physicians from KU Hospital, who oppose the affiliation as it has been presented, told a House committee that the proposal was too risky and could end up harming the quality of health care in Kansas.

"We've worked very hard to get where we are, and we don't want to give it away," said Dr. William Barkman, chief of staff at KU Hospital.

St. Luke's is a competitor of KU Hospital, which is the teaching hospital for KUMC and its School of Medicine. But KUMC has said it needs to partner with St. Luke's in order to lure private research dollars and gain status as a national cancer center.

Several members of the Government Efficiency and Technology Committee were sympathetic to the KU Hospital doctors' concerns, but several weren't.

"This is sounding a lot like a turf battle," said Rep. Judith Loganbill, D-Wichita.

Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, said "I hope we don't get our sticky fingers in it and muck it up."

The fight between KU Hospital and KUMC over the proposed education and research affiliation with St. Luke's has been waged for several weeks before the Legislature.

Last week, the House budget committee recommended approval of a measure that would strip the medical center of its state funding - $116 million in the next fiscal year - if it signs an agreement with St. Luke's that the KU Hospital board doesn't like. That measure is expected to be debated Thursday on the House floor.

Meanwhile, negotiations have been ongoing between KU Hospital and KUMC. On Tuesday, both sides announced they were "close" to reaching some agreements but Barkman said he wasn't sure what that meant.

"They are making headway, but we just don't know what close means," he said.

Barkman and Drs. Louis Wetzel, Gregory Ator and William Reed told the committee that KU Hospital has risen from the economic ashes of the late 1990s and competes directly with St. Luke's for doctors and patients.

"An affiliation should not impede the growth and success of this thriving clinical enterprise," Wetzel said.

They said the affiliation could risk patient care at the expense of beefing up life sciences research.

But Rep. Stephanie Sharp, R-Lenexa, produced a letter signed by 18 doctors at the medical center who said they supported the affiliation.

One of those was Dr. Roy Jensen, director of the KU Cancer Center. Sharp said Jensen's job was to get national cancer center designation for KU, and Jensen said the affiliation is needed.

"If he says that's what it takes, he's kind of written the book," Sharp said.

But Wetzel noted that Jensen is an employee of the medical center, which is pushing for the affiliation.

Other legislators sided with the KU Hospital physicians. Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, said it appeared that KU was willing to give its academic status to St. Luke's in return for St. Luke's paying inflated prices to the medical center to help train residents.

Comments

academia 8 years, 3 months ago

If only Rep Sharp had known that only there are only 5 "real" doctors on her letter and they only admitted around 50 patients in total of about 20,000 admissions per year. Not exactly clinically active!!

In addition, if she were better informed, she might realize that 11 are not even physicians - they never have competed for a patient. ALL, repeating ALL, are on the Dean's payroll.

Rep Sharp - just a few additional details you left out.

Richard Boyd 8 years, 3 months ago

"Physicians from KU Hospital... told a House committee that the proposal was too risky and could end up harming the quality of health care in Kansas"

Well you know, I think it is MORE interesting to consider why Dr Wetzel would oppose a program that will nearly DOUBLE residency slots (100 new positions in the next 10 years) to train MORE doctors at a facility whose specific mission is to do specifically that: TRAIN PHYSICIANS.

I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not, it seems to me that there might another motivation, let us consider the math:

Static (or mildly increasing) number of patients divided by Wetzel and a few others equal increasing profits (and less quality and access?) VS Static (or mildly increasing) number of patients divided by Wetzel and a few others PLUS up to 100 more competitors per year equals LESS (or less stable increases?) individual profit.

This shameful angle goes a long way in explaining much of opposition and "concerns". Could this be applied to the Kansas Medical Society as well? Sure they whine about the "doctor shortage" publicly but has anyone done without? How, if the "doctor shortage" were to be fixed would the law and supply and demand be affected? It reminds me of the so-called "nursing shortage" game played by some Topeka hospitals a few years ago, they would sit and cry about there not being enough nurses, yet would not even reply to applicants or fill vacancies because in the final analysis complaining is a LOT cheaper than hiring.

I think evidence can be found right here in the article, "An affiliation should not impede the growth and success of this thriving clinical enterprise," Wetzel said. I thought we were talking about patient care, not a "clinical enterprise". BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE...

"Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, said it appeared that KU was willing to give its academic status to St. Luke's: to help train residents." Pretty astute Arlen, since that is the MISSION of the University Of Kansas School Of Medicine, especially since the hospital will not step up to the plate due to for profit status. Was there some other mission you had in mind?

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