September 9, 2008

St. Francis OKs Taking on Program, Hargis Says


OSU's leader says medical education programs will make the transition.

St. Francis Health System agreed Friday to take on Oklahoma State University's medical residency program beginning July 1, 2009, to ensure the longevity of OSU's osteopathic medical school.

But the fate of its primary teaching hospital, OSU Medical Center, is unclear.

"We are extremely pleased with this agreement," said OSU President Burns Hargis. "OSU will transition its graduate medical education programs from OSU to St. Francis, thereby making hospitals within the St. Francis Health System our new teaching sites for the majority of interns, residents and fellows."

He said certain programs within the teaching system would not transition to St. Francis, but those details would be announced at a later date.

Rumors about the possible residency program move have been circulating for weeks. Opponents fear the move will mean the end for OSU Medical Center, an aging facility with a history of serving Tulsa's indigent population.

Five months ago, Ardent Health Services agreed to sell the hospital for a nominal $5 million to a public trust to be set up by Oklahoma State University by June 30, 2009. The hospital and all its equipment is valued between $140 million and $150 million. Under the plan, OSU was charged with finding a partner firm to manage the hospital but has been unable to do so.

Hargis said the residents will begin their programs July 1, 2009, the day following expiration of an agreement with Ardent Health Services. Nashville-based Ardent owns Hillcrest HealthCare System, which includes OSU Medical Center.

Ardent officials were unavailable for comment Friday.

Jake Henry, president and chief executive officer of St. Francis Health System, said the American Osteopathic Association, the accrediting body for OSU's medical school, requires that all incoming residents be notified in writing before Sept. 15 if the OSU medical school doesn't have a hospital training site for their medical training program.

"Losing OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine would have a devastating impact on this community and the state. The medical school is a major employer in the city of Tulsa. Oklahoma cannot afford to lose its vital pipeline of trained physicians," he said.

Oklahoma ranks 46th in the nation in its number of physicians per capita.

Hargis said OSU's Board of Regents will consider ratification of the agreement later this month.

"We approached St. Francis several months ago, and they recognized and appreciated the situation regarding the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine residency program and its value to the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa," he said. "We appreciate Ardent allowing us time to pursue a long-term solution. I also would like to express my gratitude to St. Francis for providing a stable home for our graduate medical education programs."

Kim Archer 581-8315

[email protected]

Originally published by KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer.

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