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O’Connell, U of L Settle Suits Over Hospital Merger Records

An agreement has been reached between the University of Louisville and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell that will end lawsuits he filed over hospital merger documents.

O’Connell went to court seeking to force the university and U of L Hospital to turn over financial and other records related to the hospital’s pending merger with two other health care companies.

O’Connell argued that the records should be made public because they involve taxpayer funds. U of L says the documents were not turned over in an Open Records request because they’re protected under Kentucky law.

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Maze To Hear Arguments December 21 in U of L Merger Records Suit

A Jefferson Circuit judge has scheduled a December 21 hearing on whether the University of Louisville should turn over records requested by the county attorney related to the pending hospital merger.

County Attorney Mike O’Connell filed a lawsuit last week seeking what he says are substantive financial and other documents involving taxpayer money regarding the pending merger of University of Louisville Hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives and Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare.

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O’Connell Sues Over Hospital Merger Records

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell has filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisville, seeking the release of records related to the pending U of L Hospital merger with Catholic Health Initiatives and Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare.

O’Connell says U of L has turned over some records that he described as “fluff,” but has not released financial information and other details that the public has a right to see.

“This is a huge financial transaction, and for the life of me again, I don’t know why the University of Louisville, its representatives and everyone else does not want people to see and know what this is about,” O’Connell said during a Tuesday press conference.

U of L has said it’s allowed to withhold the information because it’s preliminary in nature, falls under attorney/client privilege, or is otherwise protected under Kentucky law.

The university has 20 days to respond to O’Connell’s suit. The hospital merger is subject to approval by Governor Steve Beshear.

The merger will be the focus of a WFPL News special tomorrow at 1:00pm.

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Board of Health Mulling Recommendations on Hospital Merger

The Louisville Board of Health is continuing its deliberations on the pending hospital merger.

The board held a public forum with officials from University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Healthcare and Catholic Health Initiatives last month to clear up concerns that Catholic-led supervision would affect access and availability of care.

Some procedures will be banned at U of L Hospital, but the final details of what will and will not be allowed haven’t been determined. They’ll be written into a merger contract that will require approval from the clergy and the state and federal governments.

The Board of Health does not have veto power over the merger, but the panel plans to issue a set of recommendations to the governor that represent the public’s voice.

The board met last week to determine those recommendations. No decision was made, but board members continue to discuss their thoughts and are expected to release a statement on the merger soon. Final approval for the consolidation could come next month.

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U of L Appeals Merger-Related Open Records Ruling

The University of Louisville has filed an appeal to an attorney general’s ruling regarding an Open Records dispute with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Last summer, the ACLU filed an Open Records request for materials related to the pending merger of U of L Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Hospital System and Catholic Health Initiatives.

U of L refused to turn over 13 e-mails, claiming they were preliminary in nature and exempt from the Open Records law, and that some of them were also protected by attorney/client privilege.

The ACLU appealed to the attorney general, which ruled that four of the e-mails were not exempt from the request.

U of L is now appealing that decision in Jefferson Circuit Court.

The attorney general also ruled last month that the company that operates U of L Hospital is a public entity, which would make the merger subject to state approval.

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Skeptics Continue Questioning Hospital Merger

A group that’s critical of the pending hospital merger has released another round of questions for the merging partners.

Honi Goldman leads the unnamed group. Her questions for University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives largely concern funding for the merger and the final management structure of the merged entity. The deal is still a work in progress, and it’s pending state approval. Goldman released the questions in a release to the media and wrote about them on Insider Louisville. She says she hopes the governor, attorney general and legislators see the questions and seek answers.

“We’re hopeful that they share our skepticism around this, because these are tax dollars at work. Tax dollars are going to be funding this merger,” she says, adding that she is not opposed to the merger.

Last week, the merging partners spoke at a Board of Health forum. They revealed that University Hospital will not be under Catholic care directives after the merger, but will rather follow a contract that is still being written.

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Hospital Principals Decline to Attend Women’s Political Caucus Forum on Merger

The Metro Louisville Women’s Political Caucus is holding a forum tonight on the proposed merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Healthcare and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. Representatives from all of the merging entities have declined to attend.

Ryan Alessi of CN2’s Pure Politics will moderate the forum, which is advertised as a discussion of the pros and cons of the merger. Critics of the consolidation say it will hurt reproductive and end of life care, since University Hospital staff will have to follow Catholic care directives inside of the facility. Principals from the hospitals say the merger is a financial necessity. Further, they say no care will be lost. The U of L School of Medicine is not merging and can provide the same level of care, and tubal ligations will be moved to Baptist Hospital East.

The panel will feature:

  • Attorney Beverly Glascock
  • Mayor Greg Fischer’s Chief of Staff Ellen Hesen
  • Derek Selznick of the ACLU of Kentucky
  • State Senator Kathy Stein

Merger critic and public relations professional Honi Goldman organized the forum. She says principals from the hospitals were invited to be on the panel, but declined. In a letter, U of L President James Ramsey says the partners will be criticized whether or not they participate in the event, and all questions from the public should first go through the mayor’s office, which has agreed to act as the middleman between the principals and citizens.

The merger still requires approval from the state.

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Lawmaker Has More Questions About Hospital Merger

The principals of three merging healthcare systems in Kentucky can expect more questions from state lawmakers.

Last week, representatives from University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives addressed the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare. They fielded questions about how reproductive and end-of-life services would be protected after the entities merge and Catholic care directives are enforced at University Hospital.

They said the U of L medical school will not merge and all services, such as vasectomies and tubal ligations will still be provided, though possibly at another facility. But committee co-chair Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, says the alternate facilities may work for procedures that can be scheduled beforehand, but not for emergencies.

“I don’t need my beliefs—and I’m Catholic—I don’t need my beliefs pushed on somebody else,” said Burch the day after the meeting in an interview with WFPL News. “I would refuse to do that. I’ll be darned if I want to go into a hospital and they say, ‘We can’t do this here we can’t do that here,’ because the Catholic Church is opposed to it,”  says committee co-chair Tom Burch of Louisville.

He says the best option would be to exempt University Hospital from Catholic rules. Burch plans to send a list of questions about the merger to the principals. Specifically, he wants to know the religious affiliation of the merged entity’s management boards.

“I think everybody has a right to know who these people are and what would move them in one director or another. Some peoples’ religion causes them to do a thing they might not want to do,” he says.

Burch’s request has drawn criticism, but he insists it isn’t over the line, since lawmakers routinely volunteer their religion.

He expects to call the principals back to Frankfort for another hearing early next year.

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Lawmakers Ask Hospital Officials About Undoing Merger

Representatives from the University of Louisville, Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives discussed their facilities’ pending merger during a General Assembly committee meeting today.

Committee members asked a series of questions about how reproductive and end-of-life care would be preserved after CHI takes majority ownership of University Hospital. Hospital staff will have to follow Catholic medical directives, and some lawmakers posed specific scenarios about contraception for rape victims and prenatal care for cancer patients.

Hospital officials explained that the medical school will not merge and staff will provide all currently-offered services, perhaps in a different facility.

“Where is the outside facility?” asked Representative Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville. “How is that gonna happen?”

Officials didn’t know what that facility could be. Other hospitals have established secular facilities or enclaves to provide banned procedures.

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Norton to Offer Expanded Services for Women and Children at Renovated Suburban Hospital

As questions arise over the future of reproductive health services in Louisville, Norton Healthcare announced today it will reconfigure Norton Suburban Hospital into a facility for women and children.

“We see it as our responsibility to provide specialized care in areas such as cardiac care, orthopedic care, breast health, oncology, prevention and wellness, and this is certainly going above beyond the more traditional obstetrics and gynecological care that you would expect in a women’s hospital,” says Norton spokesman Thomas Johnson.

The availability of reproductive health services has been at the center of the pending merger of University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. After the merger, certain procedures involving birth control, abortion and end-of-life care will not be allowed in University Hospital. The U of L School of Medicine will not be part of the merger, and officials insist all existing services will be offered somewhere through U of L after the merger. Click here to read WFPL’s coverage of the merger.

Johnson says the renovations to Norton Suburban have been planned for years and are not a reaction to the merger. Rather, he says it’s part of an effort to provide better services for women.

“Once you put all of the care for women in one location and allow for better interaction among the doctors and the medical records, the outcome for women’s care is so much greater,” he says.

The renovations will include expanded services from Kosair Children’s Hospital. Changes will be evident at the beginning of next year, and Johnson says everything should be complete in 2013. The renovations will cost an estimated $120 million.