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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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Board of Health, African American Think Tank Gathering Questions on Hospital Merger

The pending merger between area healthcare providers has drawn a number of questions from the community, and two organizations are aiming to get answers.

The Board of Health and the African American Think Tank each held public forums on the merger last week. University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives are set to form a statewide network. But contractual language on which procedures banned under Catholic doctrine will and will not be allowed at U of L hospital has not been completed or released to the public.

The partners attended the Board of Health forum last week and gave some answers, but time ran out before many questions from the audience were addressed. The board will continue to gather questions and pass them on to the merging partners.

“Now that the community has an opportunity to ask us questions and weigh in, we want to be able to continue this dialogue as soon as possible,” says Chairman Bill Altman.

The African American Think Tank’s forum was meant to gather questions from west and southwest Louisville. Reverend Gerome Sutton attended the Board of Health forum, and he doesn’t think the partners are being open about the merger, specifically which procedures will be banned or could be changed. 

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Second Hospital Merger Forum Is Tonight

A second public forum will be held tonight on the pending hospital merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives.

The merger will limit some reproductive services offered at University Hospital, and that has raised concerns among many patients.

The forum is organized by the African American Think Tank and will be held at the African American Heritage Museum at 5:30. It’s meant to gather reactions and questions about the merger from west and southwest Louisville.

A spokesman says University of Louisville officials appreciate being invited to the forum, but school and hospital official will not attend.

Representatives from U of L, CHI and Jewish Hospital spoke at a Board of Health forum yesterday.

 

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Audio: Hospital Merger Partners Speak at Board of Health Forum

Two hours of explanation did not silence the critics and skeptics of a pending hospital merger, though many new issues and complications have been revealed.

The Louisville Metro Board of Health brought representatives from University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives to a public forum Wednesday evening. The partners took questions from the public and explained how procedures currently banned by the Catholic Church would or would not be performed at a merged University Hospital.

If the merger is approved, University Hospital will not entirely follow Catholic care directives, according to the partners’ attorney Jennifer Elliott. Rather, only certain procedures frowned upon by the Catholic Church will be banned. Namely, tubal ligations will be moved to Baptist Hospital East.

U of L Chair for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health Sharmila Makhija explained how other reproductive services would be handled:

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Parallels to Louisville in Colorado’s “Merger Mania”

The merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish & St. Mary’s Healthcare and Catholic Health Initiatives isn’t the only hospital consolidation pending in the U.S. Colorado Public Radio reports that this could be a record year for hospital mergers.

In a conversation on the show Colorado Matters, CPR health reporter Eric Whitney explains why mergers are so appealing. One big reason is the push for efficiency before the healthcare overhaul law takes effect. Whitney says the law favors healthcare providers that can offer the most service for the least cost. Large, merged entities could fit that description. The law could also lead to 30 million more Americans having insurance, but Whitney says it’s not entirely clear if smaller hospitals are seeking to join larger systems in response to the prospect of more patients.

As in Kentucky, religion plays a role in Colorado hospital mergers. A Catholic institution is seeking to absorb a public hospital in Colorado Springs. Whitney says if that happens, Colorado Springs will retain ownership of the hospital. In the local merger, there have been a number of questions asked about the ownership and management structure of the merged entity that will be created. Some of those questions may be answered in tomorrow’s Board of Health forum. WFPL will cover the event and post full audio of the forum.

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Hospital Representatives Answer Board of Health Questions

The principals from the pending merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish & St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives will appear at a Metro Board of Health forum on the 19th. In advance of that event, the board has posted the responses to an in-depth questionnaire it sent the principals asking how care will change after the merger.

You can read the responses here.

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Board of Health to Hold Hospital Merger Forum, Release Statement

Representatives for the partners in a pending hospital merger will discuss public concerns over the consolidation at a forum later this month.

University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives are set to combine into a statewide network. The new entity would have to follow Catholic care directives. That has raised questions over how reproductive and end-of-life care would be handled.

The Metro Board of Health has asked officials to attend a community forum to address concerns. Board members have talked with hospital representatives before, and the forum will help determine the board’s position on the merger.

“The Board of Health will get together after the forum and put together a recommendation in terms of how we feel the public health can be best protected if the merger should go through,” says vice-chair Gabriela Alcalde.

Neither the board nor Metro Government has any authority over the merger. The state does, however, and Alcalde hopes that any concerns the board may have will be taken seriously.

“We want to make sure that if this change in our healthcare system happens, locally and statewide, that we don’t leave anybody vulnerable. That there is no change in the provision of healthcare or there are certain groups that are less able to access or have less quality of care,” she says.

Some procedures not allowed under Catholic doctrine will be performed at University of Louisville facilities, as U of L’s School of Medicine is not merging. Tubal ligations will be moved to Baptist Hospital East, though that has drawn criticism given Baptist East’s location miles away from the downtown U of L Hospital.

The forum is on the 19th.

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Local News Politics

Conway Declares University Medical Center Public

Attorney General Jack Conway has ruled that University Medical Center is a public institution.

In a ruling Thursday, Conway rejected arguments from University of Louisville officials. They said UMC’s U of L Hospital was private, despite receiving government support and being a branch of a public university.

The ruling was a response to an appeal brought by the ACLU after the hospital rejected an open records request. The Courier-Journal later joined the case.

UMC officials released a statement saying they are disappointed in the ruling and will decide whether to appeal sometime in the next month.

UMC has been under increased scrutiny as it prepares to merge with Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. The merged healthcare operator would be required to follow Catholic care directives, meaning reproductive and end-of-life care could change.

It’s not yet clear how Conway’s ruling would affect the merger, since a now-public entity would be combining with a religious institution.