Medical Center deal a bitter pill to swallow

The Issue: Last Friday, the Board of Regents voted to give President Gary Ransdell permission to enact a deal with the Medical Center.

Our Stance: Regents did not have an adequate amount of time to discuss this deal amongst themselves and their constituents thus setting a continuing trend of establishing long-term partnerships with third-party organizations when the effects are unclear.

WKU received a defibrillator to the chest on Friday when the Board of Regents gave President Gary Ransdell the go ahead to strike a deal with the Medical Center.

The deal would include the construction of a new sports complex and a new facility for the doctorate of physical therapy program.

This would also make the Medical Center WKU’s exclusive provider for health services, therefore ending our contract with Graves Gilbert Clinic.

While the board worked with surgical precision over two hours to pass the motion, they flatlined when it came to the consultation of key partners and the general public.

As a handful of regents voiced during the session, some felt they did not have an adequate amount of time to discuss this matter not only amongst themselves but those they represent as well. Which is reasonable considering the Board first heard about the Medical Center deal back in late July.

Tony Norman, director of Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, asked for opinions regarding the Medical Center on Monday in an email to faculty and staff as he expressed uncertainty about what this may mean regarding the future choice of primary care for them.

“I am also perplexed that a decision about our medical care seems to be included in a decision about a building without many of us having an opportunity to understand what this means for us our families and to provide some input into the decision-making process,” Norman said in the email.

Norman’s concerns about his healthcare is valid, and he is likely not alone in them, and had the Board been able to speak more directly about this decision, and in a more public manner, this could have easily been addressed.

Ransdell later sent out an email to faculty and staff in response. He said the “partnership will in no way limit faculty/staff choices in providers or facilities under the WKU Health Plan.” 

“Our faculty and staff will continue to have a full set of options and choices as it relates to health care services in our community and beyond,” Ransdell said in the email. 

But the lack of consultation on the deal does not lay solely at the feet of the regents. For some time, Ransdell has been working to strike this deal with the Medical Center as he confirmed during the session and later in an interview with Herald reporters.

Ransdell said so himself that the Medical Center board had already approved the project in July and again in early August.

Meaning while the Medical Center and Ransdell were ready to go, the Board and the university as a whole, were left in the dark concerning a major deal that is set to impact WKU for 99 years.

This is not the first deal Ransdell has brought to the Board where he already had all the cards in his hand. As Regent John Ridley pointed out during the session, WKU has been adopting a new style of establishing long-term partnerships with third-party organizations. He spoke specifically of WKU’s contract with Hanban in this regard.

While the regents who voted in favor of the deal expressed their trust in Ransdell to carry out this deal and once again expand WKU, this should not have been the only reason motivating their vote as this decision will have effects that we have yet to see.

Blind trust should not have been a motivating factor in a 99-year decision that affects not only WKU’s health care or partnerships in Bowling Green, especially at a time when we’re searching for a new president.

While it is common for a doctor to get a second opinion in matters, this time around none were given as Ransdell moves forward to operate.