Op-Ed

UKHealth foundation expanded care to E. Ky.

Luther Deaton Jr.
Luther Deaton Jr.

Growing up in Breathitt County, the medical care from our family physician was very good, but we did not have access to a local hospital that could handle medical emergencies.

When I was young, my father was badly injured in a railroad accident in Hazard. In the time it took to transport him along narrow, two-lane roads all the way to Lexington for care, his leg became infected. As a result, the doctors were forced to amputate the leg, and his life was changed forever.

Today, the roads are much better and so is the quick access to high-quality medical care in Eastern Kentucky. What happened to my dad would not occur today.

Much of that improvement in access to high-quality medical services I attribute to Dr. Michael Karpf, his visionary leadership at UK HealthCare during the last 15 years, and the team of excellent physicians associated with him.

Together, they’ve built affiliations with regional hospitals across the state, especially in Eastern Kentucky, and have invested millions of dollars for research, facilities and partnerships to transform his compelling vision into a reality.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the same picture painted by the recent Herald-Leader story that called the Kentucky Medical Services Foundation the “secretive” arm of UK HealthCare.

As a community member of the health care committee for the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, I don’t believe there is any secret to what KMSF is or what it does. And I’m not sure how much secrecy there can be when the entire Herald-Leader story was based on information willingly provided by KMSF or UK.

KMSF was formed nearly 40 years ago for a simple purpose. UK Hospital was finding it difficult to recruit and retain the best physicians because the university’s human resources structure would not allow it to offer compensation packages competitive with other regional medical centers. KMSF provided the mechanism to create and maintain competitive compensation.

Those benefits are paid for by the revenues generated from outstanding medical care provided to thousands of Kentuckians. That’s how a hospital is supposed to work. The doctors at UK HealthCare and those they elect to represent them on the KMSF board decide how to spend revenues they collect. There is no secret in that.

KMSF also has generated additional revenues used by UK HealthCare to support the university. Those dollars have provided:

▪ The purchase of Good Samaritan Hospital.

▪ The transfer of management of Eastern State Hospital to the university.

▪ The development of partnerships with other providers that expanded access to highly specialized care. KMSF invited CEOs and doctors from other regional hospitals to create an opportunity to exchange ideas for expanding health-care resources.

At times these partnerships used a chartered aircraft to reduce travel time and allow doctors to continue serving patients throughout the workday. I was invited by UK HealthCare (as a representative of the health-care committee) to be on a flight from Lexington to Hazard to attend a dedication ceremony for a new patient facility at Appalachian Regional Hospital.

At the ceremony, the major donor, Joe Craft, was honored, as was UK HealthCare for its support. Without the plane ride, physicians would have been out of their offices, unable to serve patients, for an entire day.

Their mission is no secret, except that the Herald-Leader’s readers have been led to believe that these positive works are something mysterious that needs further scrutiny. On the contrary, I believe they should be praised for expanding high-quality medical services to parts of the state where it has not been available previously.

Karpf has been a leader who has encouraged other medical professionals to work together with their teammates at UK HealthCare, toward a goal of improving service to many parts of our state.

KMSF is not mysterious or suspicious. It is a dedicated servant that works very hard to achieve its mission: recruiting and retaining the very best physicians in Kentucky and providing the support needed for them to extend access to outstanding medical care to the people who need it most.

I believe that is a compelling story, worth reading and far more important to the community and so many others that finally are linked together across our state.

Luther Deaton Jr. is chairman, president and CEO of Central Bank.

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