Seton-UT Austin Affiliation Agreement

For more on the Affiliation Agreement between UT Austin and Seton, read the press release or the complete executed agreement.

 What is the Affiliation Agreement?

The agreement is a contract between The University of Texas at Austin and Ascension’s Seton Healthcare Family outlining how faculty members, residents and students at the Dell Medical School will work, train and learn at Seton facilities, including Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas.

The Affiliation Agreement does not provide any university or taxpayer money to Seton, but it does make Seton the Medical School’s primary partner for most clinical and training programs. It is based on prior agreements between Seton and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas covering medical education and services by faculty members, residents and students in Seton facilities.

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 What does it say?

The agreement contains usual and customary language regarding the Dell Medical School’s role in leading and managing medical education and in directing faculty, academic and research activities. It ensures that Dell medical students, residents and fellows will have access to robust clinical training experiences and sites, and it requires Seton to provide reasonable and appropriate access and space for these activities. Seton also is obligated under the agreement to continue its financial support of graduate medical education at current or increased levels. And the agreement ensures that Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care (ERDs) — to which Seton adheres — will not limit the full range of educational experiences, including those regarding reproductive health services, provided by the Dell Medical School’s faculty members to medical students, residents and fellows, nor will it limit patient care or research conducted by UT Austin faculty members.

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 Why is it important?

The Affiliation Agreement is significant in that it sets the foundation for how the Dell Medical School and Seton will interact at Seton facilities such as Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas. The hospital is part of an area-wide organized system of care for low-income and uninsured Travis County residents. The agreement creates critical protections should Seton ever seek to discontinue its role in the safety net — making sure another provider can be found to provide those services before Seton can stop doing so. And it contractually continues current practices and procedures in the way women’s reproductive health services are provided in this community.

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 How long does the Affiliation Agreement run?

It has an initial term of 25 years, with two automatic 10-year extensions. It also allows for a mutually agreed-upon wind-down period of five years.

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 Does the Board of Regents need to approve the agreement?

No. No funding is involved in the agreement, so although UT System officials actively helped negotiate and finalize it, the Board of Regents does not need to vote on it.

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 How will Seton and the Medical School interact under the agreement?

The agreement makes clear that Seton will be the Dell Medical School’s primary partner in providing clinical programs that are not disallowed under the ERDs. It maintains UT Austin’s freedom to seek a range of partners on education and research programs and to rotate medical students to non-Seton sites. And on “ERD non-compliant” clinical programs, the agreement makes clear that the medical school has absolute freedom to contract with any provider to ensure that students are receiving the education and training — including on the full range of women’s health services — that is required for the medical school to be accredited. It ensures that Seton will maintain its graduate medical education responsibilities by financially supporting medical residents at least as much as it does currently, and that undergraduate education will be the medical school’s responsibility.

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 How will the partnership be governed?

The Affiliation Agreement creates the Joint Conference Council to oversee and approve all major business, operational, strategic and budget decisions for clinical and research programs in which Dell Medical School faculty members, residents and students work, train and learn. The 10-member Conference Council will consist of five Seton representatives, four UT Austin/Dell Medical School representatives and one representative of the UT System. The Seton representatives will have the right to recuse themselves from votes on issues or activities that are not in line with Seton’s ERDs. Just as UT Austin will maintain control of medical curriculum and how students are taught and trained, Seton will be able to make decisions about hospital management issues that don’t affect the medical school.

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 Does the Affiliation Agreement allow Seton to limit what is taught at the Dell Medical School?

No. Dell Medical School will educate all students and residents in all procedures related to women’s health and any other appropriate and necessary subject or topic. The Affiliation Agreement certifies that curriculum decisions are made by the dean of the Dell Medical School in consultation with the faculty. It plainly states that Seton cannot limit what the medical school teaches, and the ERDs cannot limit the scope of the training or the services that are provided. Medical school faculty members will maintain and be fully protected under academic freedom.

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 What role will Seton’s ERDs play in the operation of the hospital under this Affiliation Agreement?

The Affiliation Agreement provides important new assurance that there will be no change in the way this community, and especially women in this community, receive services that aren’t permitted under the ERDs. The directives restrict some reproductive health services at Seton facilities. Those services are and will continue to be provided at non-Seton facilities. This arrangement will be continued and even enhanced under the Affiliation Agreement, which recognizes that Dell Medical School students must be trained in these procedures for the school to be accredited.

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 How will this Affiliation Agreement benefit the community?

The agreement fortifies Seton’s commitment to provide health care to underserved Travis County residents, and it makes the Dell Medical School and its faculty, residents and students all partners in that effort. The agreement specifically pledges to “expand the health care infrastructure for the region, increase access for patients, and provide necessary permanent and ongoing funding for the operation of Dell Medical School as a premier medical education institution for Central Texas and the ages. These operations will include activities and functions which will redound to the health and welfare of the residents of Central Texas and provide ongoing and significant community benefits that support the charitable mission of Seton.” It demonstrates how the existence of the medical school — with its faculty doctors, residents and students — will ultimately help the community as a whole.

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 Would the agreement allow additional facilities, such as a cancer center or psychiatric facility, to be built in Austin?

Yes. The agreement, for its first 15 years, gives Seton the first right to consider partnering with the Dell Medical School, UT Austin or other UT System institutions in such projects before any other provider could take on such a partnership. If Seton does not exercise that right in 60 days, the agreement allows the medical school, university or other UT System institution to move forward on the project with another partner or on its own.

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