Archive for Friday, July 5, 2013

KU officials regroup after Legislature put brakes on health education building

July 5, 2013


— One of Kansas University’s top priorities during the recently completed legislative session was to get a commitment from state government to help construct a new health education building at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

The reasons for the building are three-fold: Kansas needs more doctors; the current medical building is outdated; and surrounding states have been opening state-of-the-art facilities, making it more difficult to get students at KU.

But the Kansas Legislature went the other way — cutting funding to the universities and essentially stopping the building project. Gov. Sam Brownback complained about the cuts approved by his fellow Republicans, but he signed them into law.

Now, KU officials are trying to figure out what to do next.

“We need to regroup and go back to the Legislature and see if they won’t help,” said Dr. Douglas Girod, executive vice chancellor for the KU Medical Center.

Years of planning

For several years, KU has talked about the need for a $75 million educational training facility with simulation technologies.

KU School of Medicine students on the Kansas City campus receive their training in a building that opened in 1976 and now needs millions of dollars’ worth of repairs.

The building is designed for lectures instead of the small-group learning required by modern techniques. The newer style allows more direct contact with faculty, and it is more technology-driven with interactive video.

In surveys of students who were accepted into the KU School of Medicine but chose to go elsewhere, the outmoded facilities are often cited as the reason.

All surrounding states have built new medical education buildings or upgraded their facilities recently.

And the proposed building would increase the class size at the Kansas City campus, allowing the school to churn out more doctors.

As of 2010, Kansas ranked 39th among the 50 states in active physicians per 100,000 population. And by 2030, 60 percent of the current physician workforce in Kansas will have left the profession.

As part of the higher education budget request to the Legislature, KU sought $30 million in bonds over a 10-year period for the building.

KU also sought the release of $25 million that was returned from the federal government as part of a FICA refund related to payroll taxes paid by the medical center in the 1990s.

In Brownback’s budget proposal, the governor whittled that request down to $10 million over two years, with $35 million in bonds.

But Republicans in the Legislature blew that up.

In the end, KU got $1 million for the project.

“That doesn’t do much to move it along,” Girod said. He said the funds will allow some site evaluation.

Without a greater state commitment, Girod said, private fundraising has ground to a halt.

“They’re not jumping in until the state comes through,” he said.

Critics blame KU

The move to greatly reduce funding for the building started in a Senate subcommittee chaired by state Sen. Tom Arpke, R-Salina.

Arpke said KU has itself to blame.

He said he went on the Kansas Board of Regents website and started looking at reports on the utilization of classrooms and teaching laboratories.

“Some of the reports through the Board of Regents came up all zeroes. That was kind of a red flag,” he said.

Those reports include categories such as how many average hours per week is a classroom used and weekly student contact hours. In the report for fall 2012, KU Medical Center reports N/A or not available in many of the categories.

Mary Jane Stankiewicz, a spokeswoman for the Board of Regents, said the problem with the reports is that KU Medical Center is a different kind of institution than the other regents institutions that are dominated by undergraduates.

Stankiewicz said the regents have recently requested that KU Medical Center fill out the report to the best of its abilities, and the school is working on that.

Arpke said the lines of communication between he and KU remain open, and that he doesn’t think delaying the health education building will “make or break this project.”

Doing more with less

Girod said KU officials will continue to make the argument that it has managed to do more with less, but that they need help from the Legislature.

In addition to putting the brakes on the health education building, the Legislature cut KUMC’s funding by $8.3 million over the next two years.

In 2008, before the effects of the Great Recession had taken hold, KUMC was allocated $127 million from the Legislature in its annual appropriation. Cuts since then, including the current fiscal year, have dropped that figure to $97.3 million. That is about a 24 percent drop in five years.

“Every state around us is investing in higher education and their medical education infrastructure,” Girod said. “We are the only ones going in the other direction. That puts us at risk.”


blindrabbit 4 years, 10 months ago

Bull Manure, Smilin Sam is working this both ways: he really wants the cuts and no new building for KU, but by complaining about the legislature, he can look good to the populace by appearing to be opposed to their rejection. Regardless, he will dance to the Koch-a-Kola tune, especially if he can mimic the like nut Rick Perry in Texas.

Water 4 years, 10 months ago

How long will it be before the Primary Care Physician is replaced by a computer database of questions? Perhaps it would be more wise to direct our educational system to teach students to create, install and maintain the computer software, hardware, robotics and automation technology which will be used by hospitals in the near future.
I've had several conditions which required me to visit my PCP many times. A series of diagnostic tests were performed in between visits. I could have answered the questions on my computer at home, the computer could have told me the name of my next destination and sent a map of roads and hallways to my smart phone. If we can reserve a ticket for a ballgame from home why can't we reserve our next visit to the doctor from our smart phone or home computer?

justoneperson 4 years, 10 months ago

I would like some more information about this:

"KU also sought the release of $25 million that was returned from the federal government as part of a FICA refund related to payroll taxes paid by the medical center in the 1990s"

ravenjayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

KU Medical School admits too many applicants who are not going to practice in Kansas in the first place. A high percentage go back to their home states. They need to have people on the admission staff who need to give priority to students who actually want to practice medicine in the private sector and who want to go to areas that need doctors. It is an admission staff problem of not training Dr.s who want to be in Kansas.

chootspa 4 years, 10 months ago

Even if they really think they want to stay in the state when they're admitted into the program, the massive student loan debt and higher paying big city jobs do a good job of convincing them otherwise after graduation.

Miles Nease 4 years, 10 months ago

Can you blame them for not wanting to stay in the state? Kansas is rapidly rivaling a third-world county.

My question in all of this legislative mess is, what is the KU Alumni Association doing? Are they sending out directives to bombard these idiots with emails, phone calls and letters? If they are, I haven't received a damned thing.

I'm a Republican, but these people have to be stopped. They are decreasing the value of my degree and the quality of life for thousands of Kansans. I would start be targeting Arpke, Rhoades and Merrick, since they seem to be the most hostile toward KU, and then move on the rest of the Koch minions.

jaydocky 4 years, 10 months ago

No one has mentioned the real issue. Without adequate facilities, the medical school accreditation is in jeopardy. Many think probation is likely.

Bob Reinsch 4 years, 10 months ago

Arpke is a hard-line AFP candidate that outspent and out-negativecampaigned the very reasonable, and very experience Dr. Pete Brungardt out of Salina. Arpke is doing exactly as his handlers at Americans for Prosperity tell him to do. He is a fedora on a donkey.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.