Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Senate advances plan to block hospital deal

March 21, 2007

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— Legislative leaders could prevent the state-funded medical school from affiliating with a nonprofit, Missouri-based hospital system under a proposal senators added Tuesday night to a budget bill.

The measure would give the State Finance Council until July 1 to consider the proposed affiliation of the Kansas University medical school and its Medical Center with the St. Luke's system, of Kansas City, Mo., which operates 11 hospitals. If the council, comprised of the governor and eight top legislative leaders, doesn't act, the affiliation would occur.

Senators also added a requirement that the medical school have its affiliation approved by the state Board of Regents, which governs higher education, and the board of directors for the Kansas University Hospital, which shares the medical school's Kansas City, Kan., campus.

The state separated the Kansas hospital from the medical school and its Medical Center in 1998. But the hospital still relies on the school for its doctors, and the hospital is the school's primary teaching institution. The affiliation would allow medical school residents to work at St. Luke's hospitals and St. Luke's personnel to teach at the medical school.

Some legislators worry the affiliation could skim doctors away from the Kansas hospital and a medical program in Wichita, resulting in fewer physicians in Kansas, particularly in rural areas. Hospital officials fear they'll lose doctors and even whole programs to St. Luke's and will be hurt enough financially that the hospital won't be able to provide services to patients who can't pay for them.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has endorsed the proposed affiliation, and she has said it would be a mistake for legislators to interfere. She and other supporters of the deal argue it will make the Kansas City area a center of bioscience research and help attract to Kansas a research center designated by the National Cancer Institute.

House members have approved a proposed budget with a provision requiring the medical school to have its affiliation with St. Luke's approved by the regents, the Kansas hospital's board and the Wichita Center for Graduate Medical Education, operated by the medical school and two Wichita hospital systems.

The final version of any restrictions on the affiliation will be written by House and Senate negotiators as they draft a compromise $12.4 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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