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Women’s Political Caucus Joins Voices Against Merger

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The Metropolitan Louisville Women’s Political Caucus is now opposing the University of Louisville Hospital merger.

University Hospital is poised to merge with Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. Earlier this year, the caucus purchased ad space in the Courier-Journal to raise concerns over the future of reproductive care, since religious doctrine will be partially imposed on the merging partners.

The partners insist care will be preserved, though patients will have to go elsewhere for certain services, such as tubal ligations and to fill birth control prescriptions. But in a statement released today, the caucus says the partners have not made a convincing argument that care will be preserved or that the merger is necessary.

The caucus is encouraging Governor Steve Beshear to reject the proposal. The group joins the Kentucky Alliance, Americans United and the Courier-Journal editorial board in opposition to the merger.

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Council Votes to Continue Payments to University Hospital

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The Louisville Metro Council will continue contributing money to indigent care at University of Louisville Hospital.

The city gives about $9.6 million to the hospital every year to care for the poor. Earlier this week, four members of the Budget Committee tabled a payment to the hospital due largely to questions over how the money is spent. They also wanted answers about any potential changes to care, visitation rights and employee benefits that may happen if the hospital merges with Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives.

At Thursday’s meeting, the full council voted to continue the funding. The Courier-Journal reports that an amendment to the allocation stipulates that the money will be cut off in March if hospital executives do not answer questions about the merger.

A spokesman for the mayor previously said the funding for indigent care could be slashed in the next city budget, which will contain a number of budget cuts.

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Louisville Forum Hosts Hospital Merger, Questions Persist

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Click here to documents released from merger officials to Jefferson County attorney.

Tensions rose Wednesday afternoon between healthcare professionals and officials with the pending hospital merger who participated in a debate hosted by Louisville Forum.

It was three on three at Vincenzo’s in downtown Louisville. Merger officials said the deal’s opponents have made up some of their arguments because they lack access to the facts. At times the audience scoffed at merger officials who reiterated merger is a matter of business and economic development and not meant to impose Catholic health directives on U of L Hospital.

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First Amendment Group Urges Beshear to Block Hospital Merger

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The Washington D.C.-based organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State is asking Governor Steve Beshear not to approve the pending merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.

The group argues that U of L Hospital is public and any deal that would put it under religious medical directives is unconstitutional.

From the statement:

“Because of the Catholic Church’s opposition to sterilization, for example, University Hospital will no longer offer certain medical procedures, like tubal ligations, and certain medications, like birth control, that it currently provides,” reads the letter. “Revising a public hospital’s policies to adhere to a specific religious doctrine most certainly violates the [separation of church and state].”

The letter notes that University Hospital provides care for the indigent on behalf of the state government under an arrangement called the Quality and Charity Care Trust Agreement. Kentucky government, AU argues, cannot tailor this care to theological mandates.

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Local News Politics

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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City’s Funding for U of L Hospital Questioned, Facing Cuts

After a brief delay, the Louisville Metro Council is expected to continue its payments to University of Louisville Hospital for indigent care. But concerns over the city budget and the hospital’s pending merger have made that money an easy target.

The city gives about $9.6 million to the hospital every year to care for the city’s poor, though some of that money is returned.

Four council members blocked one payment to the hospital this week because they wanted to see more accounting of how the money is spent. They were also protesting potential changes in care, visitation rights and employee benefits that could happen if the hospital merges with Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Health System and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.

The merger contract will outline the extent to which U of L Hospital and Jewish Hospital will follow religious ethics. The partners have already announced a few changes. Among them:

  • Tubal ligations will move to Baptist Hospital East
  • Contraception will not be distributed within the hospital, though doctors may still prescribe it
  • Employee benefits to spouses and same-sex partners will be replaced with a “plus one” system under which employees could add spouses, partners, relatives or friends to their insurance plans. Hospital executives have not yet determined whether employees will have to pay for the plus one benefits.

“We’re constantly getting opinions from the county attorney: ‘Well you can’t do that because of church/state separation.’ We can’t even give funding to a number of organizations that do very good work because of that,” says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who led the efforts to table the payment to the hospital. “Why, then, are we giving $9.6 million a year to a public university when they can’t prove that they’re serving indigents and they also, all of a sudden, are claiming they’re not even a public hospital?”

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Local News

Advocacy Groups and Individuals Rally Against Hospital Merger

Civic advocacy groups and individuals met Monday to discuss what actions they can take against the proposed hospital merger between University Medical Center, Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.

The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression organized a discussion at City Hall around the controversial merger that has been criticized for lacking transparency.

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Hospital Merger Partners Discuss Transparency, Employee Benefits, Care Changes and Religious Doctrine

The principal players in a pending hospital merger say they’ve been as open as they can be with the public about the potentially multi-billion dollar deal.

The consolidation of University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Healthcare and Catholic Health Initiatives will result in a statewide care network and a $320 million cash infusion to the struggling University Medical Center (which includes U of L Hospital and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center) and Jewish/St. Mary’s. It will also lead to changes in certain reproductive care at U of L, the city’s hospital of last resort. The deal has many residents worried about the future of other procedures the Catholic Church frowns upon.

The exact details of which procedures will and will not be allowed and the exact structure of the final merged entity are still being discussed. Documents related to the merger have been kept private, and that’s led to two legal battles. One is a challenge to Attorney General Jack Conway’s ruling that the UMC is a public institution and subject to open records requests. The other is a records request filed by Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, who has been denied specific documents about the consolidation.

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Local News Politics

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 Recommends Oversight for Merged Hospitals

The Louisville Metro Board of Health wants to add a new layer of oversight in the pending hospital merger.

The board’s decision comes after studying the pending merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives. The panel was inundated with questions about how reproductive health, end of life care and a number of other issues would be handled with a Catholic partner controlling a majority of the hospitals.

The board’s final report concludes that the merger could potentially create barriers to healthcare equity and access. At least one procedure—tubal ligations for women—will be moved to another facility outside of the merger. But rather than say whether the merger should or should not happen, the board says the partners should agree to be monitored to ensure they keep their promises to preserve care. (Read the board’s full report here.)

“There needs to be a mechanism that is thought out in a collaborative way, in a proactive way, that can monitor and provide assurance that any of the commitments made are carried out in the way that they’ve been spoken and also that there isn’t a change to health access in the community,” says Board of Health Vice-chair Gabriela Alcalde.