, Corbin, KY

July 22, 2011

Hospital system merger to be examined by state’s attorney general, Corbin, KY

CORBIN — By Carl Keith Greene/Staff Writer

After three Kentucky hospital groups agreed in the middle of June to merge, the state’s attorney general Jack Conway announced Wednesday he will review that pending merger.

The hospital groups are Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), Louisville’s University Hospital and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare.

The Sunday prior to Conway’s announcement the Courier-Journal reported that after the merger of Louisville’s University Hospital and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare will no longer perform tubal ligations to prevent women from becoming pregnant.

It was noted that the change will be made because of the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to sterilization, vasectomies and abortions.

Lexington’s Saint Joseph Health System already will not perform those surgeries.

The Saint Joseph system is made up of Saint Joseph-London, Saint Joseph in Lexington and Saint Joseph East in Lexington, Saint Joseph-Berea, Saint Joseph-Martin, Saint Joseph-Mount Sterling and Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown.

Conway has been quoted as saying that his office will take a look at the role it has, if any. He said he thinks that as the state’s chief consumer protection office it’s appropriate for him to ask some questions.

He added that he wants to know more about the role of CHI in making health care policy at  Louisville’s University Hospital which is a public teaching hospital and the hospital that often handles poor patients from the area surrounding Louisville.

Wednesday, in a press conference not related to Conway’s earlier statements, U of L medical officials addressed concerns that women will lose access to some reproductive health care after the merger is completed.

The officials reported that a $15 million fund has been set and asked to maintain the access.

It could be done by building or renovating health care facilities outside the merged system to get around the prohibition of sterilizations at U of L’s hospital.

Representatives of U of L, CHI and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare told Conway they will cooperate with him and answer any questions regarding the merger.

In a meeting with the Courier-Journal editorial board, Conway said he wondered if other areas at University Hospital, stem-cell research and training physicians to perform vasectomies to sterilize men, could be affected.

The attorney general also said his office will determine if he has a role in commenting to the Federal Trade Commission, which is required to approve the merger.

The system, developed from the merger, plans to call for CHI to make an incremental capital payment of $420 million to support the mission and health care services across the state.

In addition, the system will invest $200 million to expand the academic medical center in Louisville and $100 million in statewide health services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the American Heart Association rank Kentucky among the 10 states with the worst health indicators for cancer, obesity and death from heart disease and stroke.

More than half the state is indicated as medically under-served and there is a decreasing number of physicians across the state.

The three partners will continue to operate as separate organizations until they have gotten regulatory organizations.