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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Fischer Reacts to Hospital Merger Rejection

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer released the following statement in reaction to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s decision to reject the merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives.

From the mayor’s office:

“Now that this critical decision has been made, we need to understand how the affected hospitals will operate moving forward. With the coming changes in health care reform, coupled with the pressures facing Jewish & St. Mary’s and University, we must work together as all options are explored to ensure that there is a strong health care system that works for all people in Louisville. University and Jewish & St Mary’s have long traditions of providing excellent health care and medical research, and it’s important for Louisville’s future that those legacies continue.”

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Beshear Rejects Hospital Merger

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has rejected the pending merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives.

The deal would’ve put University Hospital under a contract inspired by Catholic doctrine, though the institution would remain secular. It blocked certain reproductive health procedures and would change employee benefits, beginning 2013.

Critics of the merger say it would create an unwelcome entanglement between church and state. The merging partners argued that University Hospital is not a public entity. But in his statement rejecting the merger, Beshear sided with the critics.

“If this merger were allowed to happen, U of L and the public would have only indirect and minority influence over the new statewide network’s affairs and its use of public assets,” he said.

Attorney General Jack Conway also ruled that the hospital was a public entity, though the merging partners challenged his decision.

But the merger’s critics are celebrating.

Criticism of the merger picked up this year as details emerged about the role Catholic doctrine would play in the deal. After merging with Jewish/St. Mary’s Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives, U of L Hospital would stop performing certain procedures banned by the Catholic Church. That included tube tying and distributing birth control. Also, employee health benefits would change in 2013, possibly to exclude coverage for same-sex partners.

Leading merger critic Honi Goldman welcomed Beshear’s decision.

“Obviously he realized both the financial repercussions that this merger would take on the Commonwealth as well as to the healthcare of the citizens of Kentucky,” she said.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Will Make Decision on Hospital Merger, Move Aggressively on Gaming Amendment

Facing a challenging budget for the upcoming General Assembly, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is promising to lobby state lawmakers aggressively for a constitutional amendment on expanding gaming.

A recent poll showed 87 percent of voters want the issue to be on the November 2012 ballot. The survey also found 64 percent of Kentuckians would favor such a change to the state constitution.

Beshear says his legislative agenda will also include improving early childhood education, but the state needs more money for such programs to work.

“We are going to need more revenue as we move down the road and I am going to aggressively push a constitutional amendment to get it on the ballot that would let people vote on whether Kentucky should have expanded gaming in the state. These are the kinds of things we need to do to make a difference for Kentucky for years to come,” he says.

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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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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.

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Baptist Hospital East to Handle Tubal Ligations After Merger

The hospital merger that is meant to enhance care across Kentucky will result in some procedures being moved to facilities outside of the merger.

The University of Louisville has expanded its decade-old partnership with Baptist Hospital East to relocate procedures that will eventually be banned at U of L Hospital. The hospital is merging with Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. Afterward, all doctors will have to follow Catholic care directives in merged facilities. That means women will not be able to have their tubes tied at University Hospital.

U of L has been in talks to move tubal ligations to Baptist Hospital East for weeks. The partnership means that women who want to have a ligation after a caesarean section will have to plan to deliver at Baptist Hospital.

“It would be exactly the same as a patient with a brain tumor who is seen at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and is told that their neurosurgery would be done at Baptist Hospital whereas they might come back to University Hospital for the chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” says School of Medicine Dead Edward Halperin.

U of L officials announced the partnership today, ending weeks of speculation and rumors. Officials say differences in insurance coverage for U of L and Baptist Hospital are minimal but will be worked out and transportation will be provided for indigent patients.

“Obviously these guys have never been in labor. To transport a woman past hospital after hospital just to get to Baptist East is a little bit ludicrous,” says merger critic Honi Goldman.

“You’re still going to have a built-in time lag for these people and that’s just not fair and it’s not right,” says attorney and former nurse Beverly Glascock, who is also a critic of the merger. “This is a community hospital and they should try to make this hospital work for the community and not just the members of the merger.”

Goldman says the partnership doesn’t resolve ongoing concerns about University Hospital–a top choice for uninsured and low-income residents–merging partners have not adequately explained how end-of-life care issues will be addressed.

The school of medicine is not part of the merger and other procedures banned by the Catholic Church will likely be provided in U of L clinics or facilities, if they aren’t offered in them already. The procedures include abortions, contraception counseling and vasectomies.

The merger still requires approval from the governor and attorney general. Both have raised questions about the future of reproductive and end-of-life care at University Hospital, which has a number of low-income patients.

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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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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.

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Archbishop Discusses Hospital Merger

The concerns that the pending merger between University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives has put the future of certain services in question. Doctors in the merged University Hospital will have to follow Catholic directives, meaning many reproductive health services (contraception counseling, vasectomies, tubal ligations, emergency and elective abortions) will not be allowed and end-of-life care will also change.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz recently penned a column defending the church’s directives. He also spoke to the Courier-Journal about the merger.

Kurtz also said in a brief interview he couldn’t foresee a situation in which University or Jewish hospitals would operate under Catholic ownership without also following the formal Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Heath Care Service.

University officials have been relatively quiet on the merger, but School of Medicine Dean Edward Halperin repeated his previous statement that the school will remain unaffected by the merger and will find a way to provide all currently-offered services. Many Kentucky elected officials have put pressure on U of L to do so, and the principals in the merger will discuss their options with a General Assembly committee later this month.

WFPL News previously highlighted two instances (Austin, Texas and Kingston, New York) where banned services were continued after a religious-secular merger.

You can read the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services here.

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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.