Governor calls for Ellis Fischel money
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Governor calls for Ellis Fischel money

Date: December 5, 2007
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The $31.2 million for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center proposed Wednesday by Gov. Matt Blunt could allow the hospital to shut down its 70 year old building and construct a new facility next to the University Hospital if the money is approved by the legislature.

The Center could also get new funding from the National Cancer Institute by becoming a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Ellis Fischel Cancer Center has been located on Business Loop for nearly 70 years. If the governor's funds are approved, the new building will be located on the MU campus near the inpatient clinic at University Hospital.

Ellis Fischel partnered with the UMC Health Sciences Center in 1990 and is the only Missouri hospital dedicated primarily to cancer.

The $31.2 million proposed by Blunt would come from money gained by the state for higher education building projects. An additional $21 million would be needed to fund the new Cancer Center.

Barbs flew last session over the sale of assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority and if stem-cell research would be conducted in buildings financed by the sale.

The Ellis Fischel money was removed from the project list last March. Republican's blamed Columbia Democrat Sen. Chuck Graham's opposition, Graham blamed Republican fears of stem-cell research.

"They didn't want to give authority for any type of research until they could remove that research from the constitution," Ted Farnen, Graham's chief of staff, said."No one was saying 'we want to build Ellis Fischel for stem-cell research' but they were worried at some point it might be used for stem-cell research."

Legislation and ballot language have been filed to revoke the constitutional change.

According to a governor's office press release, the money would be used to construct a new facility, increase patient capacity and attempt to meet requirements to be designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. The supplemental budget must be approved by the Missouri legislature.

"I'm just hoping we can bring it through very clean without any stem-cell language," Robb said. Robb said his wife is a cancer survivor because of treatment she received at Ellis Fischel.

Robb said his first priority will be finding the additional $21 million needed for the building.

Bill Caldwell, Director of Ellis Fischel said stem-cell research was never an issue with the cancer center.

"That has no relationship to the Cancer Center at all," Caldwell said. "We're not doing stem-cell research."

Caldwell said the Cancer Center will attempt to qualify to become Comprehensive Cancer Center through the National Cancer Institute.

To do so, Ellis Fischel must demonstrate expertise in laboratory, clinical and behavioral and population-based research. It would also have to undergo an extensive application process.

There are 39 such centers nationwide, which, according to the National Cancer Institute, are funded through the Federal and non-Federal sources.

Research at other facilities is mostly clinical but some hospitals involve forms of stem-cell research, which could reopen the problems seen last year in the Missouri legislature.

When the MoHELA sale was first introduced by Blunt in 2005, UMC was slated to receive $175 million, the largest amount of funds in the state. In February, then UM-System President Elson Floyd promised no MoHELA money would be used to fund stem cell research, instead turning funds toward the cancer center.

In March Senate Republicans removed funds for the Cancer Center citing stem-cell research concerns and Democrats opposition led by Graham. When the MoHELA sale was approved in May it contained no funding for projects on the UMC campus, but some auxiliary programs received money.

Columbia's Democrat Senator's office accused the governor of playing election year politics Wednesday in announcing support for funding Ellis Fischel after the funding was removed by Republican Senate leaders during the last legislative session.

"It's an election year to put it bluntly, you either support it or not. A few months ago they did not and now they do," Farnen said.

The governor's chief spokesperson, Jessica Robinson, said the governor never stopped supporting Ellis Fischel.

Blunt mentioned his willingness to reinstate the Cancer Center project after signing off on the asset sale.

"It's good news, but it's good news that could have come a lot earlier," Farnen said."It's just kind of making up for what these people could have done months ago."