OSU Medical Center expansion cutback sparks debate

COLUMBUS – Backers of the Ohio State University cancer center believe a proposed $500 million expansion has been derailed and are hoping a university review will address their concerns.

The complaints pit a team of heavy-hitting Ohio State fundraisers against the director of the university’s top-ranked medical center.

The debate began with a letter to Ohio state officials in which founders and backers of the James Cancer Center argued that the center’s original expansion plan was being unnecessarily merged with an expansion plan for the entire medical center, which includes the James center.

“We cannot afford to allow the Medical Center leadership to pursue a dangerous path which in our view undermines The James’ ability to build and enhance its clear record of excellence,” said the Jan. 24 letter sent to Ohio State President Karen Holbrook, trustees and Fred Sanfilippo, medical center director.

“These issues must be resolved,” Holbrook said in a Feb. 19 letter to the cancer center fundraisers.

The university, the nation’s largest, is spending $772,500 on two consultants studying the entire medical center expansion plan.

The overall expansion will cost about $780 million, including changes to the cancer center. That includes about $680 million in university debt and $100 million in donations.

The university had already intended to hire the consultants and the decision was not a result of the complaints, William Shkurti, Ohio State’s senior vice president for business and finance, said Wednesday.

The university hired the consultants because of the complexity of the medical center expansion and to make sure it’s financially successful and a benefit to patients, he said.

Shkurti plans to outline the consultants’ hiring to trustees Friday.

Backers of the cancer center said it’s important that it remain an independently run organization.