Some Kansas University leaders suggest much has been accomplished in the ongoing debate about forcing an affiliation between the Kansas University Medical Center, KU Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.
Granted, talks have advanced. But the discussions are in concept only and it won't be until there is a written proposal that all parties will know what is being proposed.
The questions of the depth of an affiliation agreement; the naming or branding; how much money is involved; the fact that it is proposed to be a 10-year agreement, what is the "out clause" for KU in the agreement; the requirements or qualifications for affiliation; the differences between affiliations for research efforts and/or for commercial enterprises; the ability of either KU Hospital or St. Luke's to have the cash to honor commitments; who controls the money from the unnamed Kansas City philanthropic interests; the role of KU Hospital physicians; and many others have yet to be answered.
Various university officials have told state lawmakers "you can count on me; I wouldn't do anything that hurts the medical school, the university or the state." That sounds good but these are the same people who were trying to put together a deal in secret, who didn't want KU Hospital involved and who didn't want Kansas lawmakers to know what they were proposing for the future of one of the state's major assets.
Some legislators have said they have confidence in relying on the regents and members of the KU Hospital board to protect the state's interests. It wasn't until just recently that the regents showed any interest in the matter, especially because it was so embarrassing for them to have their ignorance and don't-care attitude exposed.
What about the efforts of Chancellor Hemenway and KUMC vice chancellor Barbara Atkinson to draft the give-away or affiliation without telling many on the medical staff the details of the plan, how this would impact their future or the future of KUMC and KU Hospital?
What about the weak and phony arguments advanced by some which do not stand up to the real situation?
State lawmakers should demand that before any agreement is finalized, the plan be made known to the legislators, to all members of the KU Medical School and KU Hospital staffers and to the public. It would be a giant, and perhaps costly, mistake to allow this agreement to be designed, sealed and delivered by the chancellor, Atkinson, St. Luke's people and a couple of Kansas City business leaders and trust that these people would do nothing harmful to the medical school, the hospital and the state.
Those directed to put together the plan should be sent to some isolated office or site to hammer out the agreement. A 10-year agreement deserves careful attention to all details. Then this firm, detailed plan would be made public for various parties to study and possibly raise objections and call for changes. Nothing about any affiliation, who has the authority to do this or that, who controls or decides whatever, should be decided in secret. There must be total openness demanded by those truly interested in the best interests of Kansas, the university, the medical school and KU Hospital. Nothing should be left to chance or "good intentions."
And to those who say the regents and hospital board members will be on top of the situation, and do what is right, they should remember the governor can control who is on the Board of Regents and to a large degree decide who serves on the hospital board. A governor can impose his or her wishes on the actions and policies of these bodies by controlling the actions of these bodies by the caliber of individuals he or she appoints to these boards.