Local News

Austin, Kingston Have Coped With Religious Hospital Mergers

Later this month, officials with University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives will address a General Assembly committee on the hospitals’ pending merger.

The principals were called before state lawmakers over concerns that reproductive and end-of-life services will be changed once the Catholic Health Initiatives owns a majority of the other facilities. CHI will hav ea 70 percent share of University Hospital and the doctors will follow Catholic health directives.

How to provide vasectomies, abortions, contraception and other services has been a sticking point in many religious-secular mergers, but there have been solutions. In Kingston, New York, the state ordered a Catholic hospital to merge with a secular hospital. The two had considered merging before, but came to an impasse over where to provide abortions, vasectomies and related procedures.

“It would come up, ‘We gotta merge to save money, we gotta do it,’ and then it would just disappear because the argument over abortion was never resolved. But when the state said, ‘You gotta do it or one of these hospitals is going to close,’ well, they made it happen,” says Paul Kirby with the Daily Freeman newspaper, who wrote about the issue.

The two hospitals agreed to the construction of a women’s clinic in the parking lot of a hospital.

“They do contraceptive counseling, things like that,” says Kirby. “They call it reproductive services. That’s what they supply there.”

In Austin, a floor of a public hospital was exempted from religious doctrine in a merger. That floor has become a women’s hospital. The group Merger Watch has previously endorsed the “hospital within a hospital” and “hospital beside a hospital” solutions, though adds that neither is preferable to no merger at all.

Both solutions were costly and both required separate management structures. U of L officials say they will protect all currently-offered services, but haven’t said how, though $15 million will be set aside to do so.

The merger must still be approved by federal regulators. Last week, Attorney General Jack Conway declared that the state must also approve the merger. He and Governor Steve Beshear have expressed concerns with the potential loss of services.

Local News

Conway Says State Must Approve Hospital Merger, Ramsey to Address Lawmakers

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Governor Steve Beshear are attempting to assert their role in a pending hospital merger.

Questions have been growing around the proposed merger of University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives. The merged hospitals will have to follow Catholic health directives. That means University Hospital would have to change how it handles reproductive health issues and end-of-life care.

Conway previously announced his intentions to look into the merger to make sure services will be protected after CHI takes 70 percent ownership of the hospital. He told WFPL last week he couldn’t stop the merger, but could recommend that the Federal Trade Commission not allow it to go forward. After reviewing the merger documents, Conway now says the state Finance and Administration Cabinet and Beshear’s office must approve the merger. Governor Beshear issued a statement saying his approval relies on all services currently offered still being offered after the merger. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has taken a similar stance. Last year, University Hospital received $61 million from the state and $7 million from the city.

Local News

Beshear Says Commonwealth Won’t Approve Merger Until Concerns Are Addressed

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has weighed in on the pending merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. Under the merger, U of L Hospital will not be able to provide abortion, stem cell research, vasectomies, treatments for infertility, emergency contraception for rape victims and birth control counseling.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Governor Beshear said the Commonwealth has two roles in the review of the proposed merger: “[T]o review the legal issues associated with the merger and, just as importantly, to review the public policy of how the University of Louisville Hospital will continue to honor its mission as a public teaching hospital that provides access and care to citizens, especially those who are indigent.”

The statement continues:

The Commonwealth must approve changes to the existing leases of public land and facilities as well as any changes to the agreements that provide for the operation of the hospital. Before those approvals will be given, additional discussion and transparency will be needed to provide full disclosure on how the public mission of University Hospital will be honored.

Each time I have spoken with University of Louisville representatives associated with this hospital merger, I have been repeatedly assured that University Hospital’s public mission would continue in every aspect of care. However, it is clear there are growing concerns within the community about issues related to the hospital’s future level of access to medical services, and those concerns need to be fully vetted before the Commonwealth takes the legal steps required to approve this merger.

In order to address the continuing questions related to health care access and availability, my administration will hold a series of conversations with the principals in the proposed merger and other interested parties. The first step in this process will be a meeting with Mayor Greg Fischer, Auditor Crit Luallen, Attorney General Jack Conway, representatives of my administration including Cabinet Secretary Mary Lassiter, Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller, Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes and Finance Secretary Lori Flanery, and the principals involved in the hospital merger to discuss how University Hospital’s public mission will continue to be met. I will also seek additional input from the community and other interested parties to ensure that we have fully reviewed the many questions that must be answered before the proposed merger can move forward.

This process will be deliberate and thoughtful, and we will take whatever time is necessary to resolve these issues.

Mayor Greg Fischer has also expressed concern about the deal, and Attorney General Jack Conway says he’ll be looking into the merger.

Local News Politics

Fischer Says Pressure on U of L to Preserve Reproductive and End-of-Life Health Services Will Continue

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says University of Louisville Hospital has a lot to lose if medical services are compromised in a pending merger with a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.

Under the merger agreement, both University Hospital and Jewish Hospital will follow Catholic medical directives. That puts a number of services related to reproductive health and end-of-life care at risk of being stopped.

“The purpose of the university is to provide public health, not theologically-driven health,” says Fischer. “So all the health services that are available at a public institution need to be available at University Hospital.”

U of L officials insist that the School of Medicine—which is not part of the merger—will continue to provide services such as vasectomies, birth control counseling and emergency contraception for rape victims. Fischer met with U of L President James Ramsey last week to discuss the merger, since the city gives the hospital $7 million a year for indigent care.

“Well there’s a lot of issues at work for them: the accreditation of their medical school; their support from the state; the financial support from the city,” says Fischer. “They recognize this is a big issue and they’ve assured me they’re going to have a solution for it. Now we’re all going to be watching for that solution and we trust that one’s going to be in place. If not, we’ll continue to give them the feedback that it needs to be in place.”

University Hospital receives $61 million from the state. A group of state lawmakers has asked Ramsey to address a General Assembly committee about the merger. He hasn’t yet announced whether he will do so.

Local News

Two Sides of Hospital Merger Debate Represented in Newspaper Ads

Several pages of the Louisville Courier-Journal will be dedicated to the pending University of Louisville hospital merger this weekend, but not editorial pages.

Two groups have paid for ad space to defend their positions on the merger between U of L Hospital, Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.

The first group is representatives from the hospitals. They say while doctors will follow Catholic health directives, banned procedures such as vasectomies and contraception counseling will continue at other U of L facilities not under the merged hospital.

But a group of local women is concerned that the services may not truly be protected, or will be too difficult to access. They’ve collected more than 400 names on a petition and will run the list as an ad this weekend. Four state lawmakers and three Metro Council members have signed the petition, which calls for the merger to be changed.

U of L officials say details of the deal are still being worked out. If federal approval is granted, the merger could begin in the next year.

Representatives with the hospitals did not return a request for comment.

Local News

Report Highlights Limitations of Hospital Merger

For months, the University of Louisville has been in merger talks with Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Healthcare and Catholic Health Initiatives. Mergers involving Catholic institutions often raise concerns about reproductive health issues, since the religion is opposed to many procedures that could affect birth control.

U of L will maintain medical facilities that are not affected by the merger, and previously, school officials said those offices would provide services that are frowned upon or banned by the Catholic Church.

But a report in the Courier-Journal uncovers the fact that some procedures, such as tubal ligations, can’t conveniently be moved.