Topeka Kansas University officials warned Tuesday that without budgetary help from the state, the medical school faces the possibility of losing its accreditation, but a Senate committee rejected their pleas.
"I just implore you to please consider this initiative," said Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center.
But the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a capital improvement plan that failed to include two major funding sources that KU said it needs to start construction of an estimated $75 million to $80 million health education building.
Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, was unswayed by Girod's assertion.
After the meeting, Masterson said, "I don't feel the accreditation is in jeopardy. If it were, we would reconsider what we needed to reconsider."
Masterson said KU had sufficient resources "to answer the accreditation issue. It's just prioritization. If they want to prioritize the accreditation as a project they have the resources to do that," he said.
Girod told the committee that the medical school's accreditation body, called the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, recently cited an area of noncompliance because of the school's facilities.
The main medical education building was built in the 1970s and can't accommodate the modern style of physician training that focuses on small groups and simulations of procedures, he said.
Girod said that challenge needed to be addressed now or "we are going to be in a major crisis a decade from now."
Losing accreditation is a lengthy process that often takes years and includes graduated phases of probation and being given a chance to correct the problems. A medical school that loses its accreditation essentially ceases to operate. "It puts you out of business," Girod said.
KU has requested the Legislature release a $25 million FICA refund linked to the medical center, and provide $1.4 million in state dollars per year to help retire $15 million in bonds. The remaining funds needed for the building would be paid with private donations and internal funds, KU has said. Girod said the building could be constructed in two years.
During the Ways and Means Committee meeting, state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, tried to amend the budget to include the $1.4 million for the medical center.
"There is a clear argument in terms of accreditation and in terms of providing an adequate number of physicians" in Kansas, Francisco said.
But Republicans on the committee rejected Francisco's amendment. GOP members of the committee then approved the budget report without the funding sought by KU.
The Ways and Means Committee decision was the second setback to KU this week.
A Senate budget subcommittee Monday deleted $2 million for a proposed institute at Kansas University to develop new technologies and drugs in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies.