WKU's Board of Regents approves move to build new sports medicine complex with Medical Center

Western Kentucky University is partnering with Med Center Health to construct a new sports medicine complex on campus. 

A medical provider filed a protest Friday against the way Western Kentucky University partnered with The Medical Center to build a new sports medicine complex on campus, citing violations of procurement laws and regulations.

Attorney Jonathan Miller, with the law firm Frost Brown Todd, filed the protest for Western Kentucky Orthopaedic and Neurological Associates. WKONA is under the umbrella of Graves-Gilbert Clinic.

"It is apparent from the documents we have received that this 99-year, $22 million deal was consummated behind closed doors without using legally-required open competitive processes," the protest reads. "Had WKONA and/or other medical facilities in the region been open to compete for this project, potentially the competition could have produced a deal that improved health care opportunities and brought more dollars for WKU programs."

The protest contends the inclusion of multiple agreements unrelated to the sports medicine complex "could negatively impact the interests of taxpayers" seeking the most for their tax dollars for health care choices.

WKONA had informal talks about the general scope of the project, but charges it was never told of "meaningful details" of the proposed project.

"In the end, the processes used by WKU run contrary to the open and transparent process mandated by Kentucky procurement statutes and regulations, as well as WKU's own Procurement Policies, and should not be allowed," according to the protest.

More specifically, the protest claims WKU gave the Medical Center multiple contracts through the deal. Those agreements include: making the Medical Center the official orthopaedic or health care provider of WKU; the ability to operate an on-campus health clinic currently run by Graves-Gilbert Clinic; making the Medical Center the preferred insurance provider with reduced co-payments and other incentives, and making Medical Center Orthopaedics the exclusive provider for WKU's sports programs.

The protest cites private communications, such as an email from President Gary Ransdell to the Board of Regents and forwarded to The Medical Center CEO Connie Smith. In the email, according to the protest, Ransdell noted he sought a commitment "that the Medical Center will refrain from financing or authorizing a stand alone UK building on their campus as long as this agreement is in place."

Ransdell concluded by reminding the board and some WKU officials that "absolute confidentiality" is critical.

"We cannot engage any party in any discussion of this until the Med Center Board acts; and you, the WKU Board of a [sic] Regents, makes a decision," according to the protest.

The protest argues the deal sets a bad precedent and could lead to other private entities giving a single investment to public entities in exchange for a monopoly.

It asks the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet to block the deal from going forward.

Ann Mead, senior vice president for Finance and Administration at WKU, was only able to comment by email on Sunday evening. She said the project is unique and there have been talks on what approvals were needed for it.

"The final decision was the project needed approval because it will be built on state property," she said in the email. "We see no basis for bidding this project."

— For more information, see Monday's edition of the Daily News.

— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.