Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Governor uses line-item veto on KU Hospital Proviso

April 25, 2007

Topeka -- Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Monday vetoed a budget proviso that would have required approval by Kansas University Hospital before a proposed affiliation could be established between KU Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital.

It was Sebelius' only line-item veto in the $12.3 billion state spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

"While I understand the concerns of the proponents of the restrictions contained in this proviso, there is already a more than sufficient level of oversight provided by current law," Sebelius said in her veto message.

"Any affiliation would have to be approved by the Board of Regents, for example, and I do not believe we should return to the past pattern of micromanagement that is proposed in this proviso," she said.

The proviso was put in the budget by lawmakers who said they feared the proposed agreement between KUMC and Kansas City, Mo.-based St. Luke's would have a negative effect on KU Hospital, which is the medical center's partner and competes with St. Luke's.

In addition, some lawmakers -- especially those from Wichita and western Kansas -- said a KUMC affiliation with St. Luke's could reduce the number of physicians and quality of health care in Kansas.

But KUMC officials said affiliation would improve medical research and help KU win designation as a national cancer center.

One of the leading supporters of the proviso was House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls.

He expressed disappointment in Sebelius' veto and questioned her reasoning that regents' scrutiny of the affiliation was enough.

"We felt the Kansas Board of Regents was negligent in not taking care of business," Neufeld said. "There was virtually no oversight on medical education concerns. We all want KUMC to be a great research institution, but we also need to pay attention to the educational component."

Neufeld said the House would monitor the KUMC negotiations process "to make sure Kansas interests are protected."

He also said inclusion of the proviso helped the Legislature approve the budget.

But it doesn't appear that proviso supporters have the necessary two-thirds support needed to override Sebelius' veto, said Rep. Jim Morrison, R-Colby, whose committee had extensive hearings on the affiliation issue.

Lawmakers return today for a wrap-up session. To override Sebelius' veto would require 84 votes in the 125-member House and 27 votes in the 40-member Senate. The budget bill passed earlier this month in the House 64-57 and the Senate 26-14.

Meanwhile, Dr. George Farha, chairman of the KU Hospital Authority Board, indicated in a statement that despite the veto, the proviso helped KU Hospital.

"The hospital believes that the legislative action has played a constructive role in developing the guiding principles to lead to an agreement between the hospital and the medical center," Farha said. "We hope today's decision does not disrupt the momentum toward an agreement."

Amy Jordan Wooden, a spokeswoman for KUMC, praised Sebelius for the veto, saying it would allow KU Hospital and the medical center "to go forward on a level playing field."

Regardless of the veto, Farha urged Sebelius and the Legislature to "remain engaged in the process to support finding the solution where no one is harmed under this affiliation concept."

Sebelius said KUMC's proposed research affiliation with St. Luke's would not harm KU Hospital, and was needed for KU's bid to be a nationally designated cancer center.

She also rejected the argument that KU's relationship with St. Luke's would hurt health care in Kansas.

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