Saturday, February 8, 2014

KU Medical Center could lose accreditation without new health education building, supporters say

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — Supporters of an initiative by the Kansas University Medical Center to build a $75 million health education facility said Thursday that without help from the state, the medical school could lose its accreditation.

"It is absolutely essential that we build this," said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

The issue came up during a meeting of the House-Senate Committee on State Building Construction.

For several years, KU has sought help from Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature to start construction of a facility that would produce more doctors and add new technologies and teaching methods for training medical students and health professionals. The current main medical education building is outmoded, in disrepair and can't be properly renovated, KU officials have said.

Brownback's budget proposal contained no funding to help retire a possible bond sale to cover part of the cost of the project.

During the committee meeting, Kelly sought to put in $1.4 million in the budget for the project in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, with the goal of adding $1.4 million per year for 15 years.

But Republicans on the committee balked, except the chairwoman, state Sen. Kay Wolf, R-Prairie Village, who said she didn't support Brownback's decision not to include funding for the facility.

Lindsey Douglas, director of state relations for KU, said the proposed facility, in addition to helping the state produce more doctors, would avoid troubles with maintaining accreditation.

Several Republicans on the committee then said they would like to know more about the project.

"I just need to learn more about it," said state Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita.

The committee decided to hear from a representative of the medical center at its next meeting on Feb. 11.

"The KU Medical Center has made an excellent argument for the need, up to and including losing accreditation if they don't improve their facilities, and the medical building they have now just can't be retro-fitted," Kelly said.

She said if the medical center lost its accreditation, or was put on probation, the school would have difficulty recruiting students. "That would just add significantly to the medical professional shortage in the state of Kansas," she said.