Topeka The House on Thursday removed Kansas University Medical Center from its budget ax, but maintained requirements for the center to enter an affiliation with Missouri-based St. Luke's Hospital.
"This puts the issue to bed for the Legislature, and allows us all to go forward," state Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, said.
The House approved 72-50 an amendment by Wilk to its proposed state budget that requires KU Medical Center to get majority approval from the Kansas Board of Regents and KU Hospital board before it can implement an agreement with St. Luke's.
Many lawmakers have criticized the medical center's approach to St. Luke's, saying it would harm KU Hospital, which is the medical center's teaching hospital.
KU Medical Center officials have said the affiliation with St. Luke's is needed to expand life sciences research and get designation as a national cancer center.
Last week, the House budget-writing committee added language to its proposed budget that said KU Medical Center would lose its state funding -- $116 million -- if it entered an affiliation with St. Luke's and didn't receive majority approval from the KU Hospital, regents, and KU's medical program in Wichita.
But Wilk's amendment removed the funding threat and approval of the Wichita program.
He said Wichita's interests were protected by members of the regents and KU Hospital board. He said the funding threat was unnecessary.
"Let the pros negotiate this deal. We need to go about our business," he said.
Several Wichita legislators, however, said the amendment would free KU from having to listen to concerns by some in Wichita who say the affiliation could hurt attempts to lure physicians to south-central Kansas and rural areas.
"We have to have all the players engaged and at the table," state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, said. "This amendment doesn't do that."