Update: U of L Officials Say New or Renovated Facilities Can Host Procedures Restricted by Hospital Merger

by Gabe Bullard on July 20, 2011

Leaders of the University of Louisville medical school gave a number of assurances but few answers about the future of reproductive health services at the school’s hospital.

U of L hospital is merging with Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Healthcare and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. The merger has raised concerns that vasectomies, stem cell research and other procedures the Catholic Church does not approve of would no longer be available at U of L. School officials have long said those procedures are not part of the hospital and will not be governed by the new merged entity.

But women who have cesarean sections in merged hospital will not be able to have tubal ligations (often called tube tying) immediately afterward.

“We will provide that service,” says Medical school Dean Edward Halperin, who has studied mergers between secular and religious hospitals. “Now if, folks, I could tell you, ‘Here is exactly the room that I’m going to show you it’s going to be done’ today, I would do that. The message we wish to convey is we’re aware of this issue. We’ve been working on it.”

Halperin says he’s read reports that detail how tubal ligations were handled under similar mergers, but declined to give any examples.

“We’re not prepared to give you the precise answer at this point, because when we do give you exactly what the answer is, we want it to be the best answer,” says U of L’s Vice President of Health Affairs David Dunn.

Dunn says $15 million will be set aside in the merger and that money will go to either build or renovate facilities to provide potentially-banned services outside of the merged hospital.

“It will be in existing facilities, it will be in existing, perhaps renovated facilities or new facilities outside of the merged entity,” he says.

Halperin and Dunn both say the university remains dedicated to providing unrestricted care to all women and men, and to the indigent population. They further say the merger talks have led to solutions that allow U of L faculty to continue to provide: abortions for pregnancy termination; abortions for medical necessity; tubal ligations apart from birth; tubal ligations after vaginal birth; and vasectomies. The merger, Halperin says, will also not affect U of L’s adult stem cell research or any curriculum dealing with reproductive health.

Update: Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway says he plans to examine what Catholic Health Initiatives’ role will be in healthcare decisions in the merged entity.

And a petition is circulating to stop the merger. Six women began gathering names Wednesday afternoon.

“Right now, we have close to 300 people,” says Honi Goldman, an organizer of the group. Goldman works in public relations, but says her professional work is not related to her work on the petition. (Here is her list of clients)

“A lot of women believe they were misled by U of L. That U of L told them everything would stay the same, then all of a sudden, ‘Well, maybe it won’t,'” she says.

Goldman says CHI’s involvement in the merger not only raises questions about research and reproductive health, but also about living wills and other areas where religion may be a factor.

The group plans to publish the petition as an ad in the Saturday and Sunday editions of the Courier-Journal.

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