Thursday, November 21, 2013

KU Medical Center, Cancer Center, progressing but facing budget challenges, officials say

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

KANSAS CITY, KAN — The Kansas University Medical Center and Cancer Center are making great strides in serving the state, but recent state and federal budget cuts are producing challenges, officials said Wednesday.

Regent Chairman Fred Logan Jr. called the KU Medical Center "one of the state's finest assets."

And he said lives will be saved because the KU Cancer Center won in 2012 National Cancer Institute designation.

"Studies have shown there is a better survival rate if you are treated at an NCI-designated center. What better return on investment is there than saving lives?" Logan said.

The regents heard updates on KUMC and the Cancer Center at their monthly meeting, which was held at the Medical Center.

Since the KU Cancer Center became the 67th NCI-designated center, it has improved its national ranking from 37th to 27th, according to U.S. News & World Report.

NCI funding to the center increased 34 percent to $13.9 million, and the number of clinical trials has increased 40 percent.

"That is a big deal in cancer care," said Jeffrey Reene, chief operating officer of the KU Cancer Center.

But cuts approved by the Kansas Legislature and federal budget cuts through sequestration have produced challenges, officials said.

State support at KUMC has fallen from $120 million in 2008 to less than $100 million now. Last session, conservative Republicans in the Kansas Legislature cut approximately $34.3 to higher education, including about $8.3 million to KU Medical Center.

After the cuts, KUMC increased tuition by 5 percent instead of a planned 3 percent increase, has 20 fewer nursing students, five fewer health professional students, and made reductions in other areas.

Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of KUMC, said federal budget cuts have also reduced research grants.

Regent Kenny Wilk asked if because of sequestration other countries were recruiting researchers and scientists from the United States.

Girod said that was happening because China and India were pouring large amounts of money into research and development.

"The risk in all this is losing a generation of scientists," Girod said.