KentuckyOne Health partners with U of L

The partnership recently announced between the University of Louisville and KentuckyOne Health has addressed serious concerns voiced about the future of end-of-life services and certain types of care for women and the poor at U of L’s University Medical Center.

Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway nixed an earlier planned merger between KentuckyOne, comprising St. Joseph Health System in Lexington, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Health Care, and UMC in Louisville. The main reason was because the proposed merger would have given control of UMC to Catholic Health Initiatives, St. Joseph’s parent company. There were worries about a lack of separation of church and state.

“We heard what the community said. There was a lot of debate and discussion about the first version of the merger. So we stood back and tried to craft something to meet those concerns. [And,] I think we did,” Ken Marshall, COO of University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center, told Business Lexington. “None of our end-of-life policies will change at University Hospital. Women’s services will still be provided in the future.”

“By addressing Gov. Beshear’s and Attorney General Jack Conway’s concerns, as well as listening to the community, we came up with this partnership that is going to help all our organizations move forward,” explained Ruth Brinkley, president and CEO of KentuckyOne Health, in a recent phone interview.

Under terms of the joint operating agreement, KentuckyOne Health will oversee most of the daily operation of University Medical Center while UMC maintains its assets and operates its Center for Women and Infants.

Conway had reviewed the original merger and recommended it not be implemented. KentuckyOne Health submitted a new proposal under the state’s procurement process and answered many detailed questions about its intentions. That process lasted about six months.

“My staff and I reviewed the final term sheet, and it appears to address the concerns raised in our December 2011 report,” Conway said in a statement. The attorney general went on to say the new operating agreement did not transfer ownership of a state asset.

“The executive branch … retains authority to oversee the new agreement. It also appears that the same health services will continue to be available on site at University Hospital,” he added.

Brinkley said the agreement won’t just benefit the Louisville area but also the entire state.

“It is going to help us expand care, training, education and research throughout the commonwealth. It’s a win-win for the state, KentuckyOne and University Medical Center, but most of all for our patients as we deploy our services to smaller communities,” said Brinkley.

Brinkley, who assumed her duties in January, said the agreement gives University of Louisville Health Sciences Center access to a statewide network. It will also stabilize the finances of the university. UMC has been doing well, Brinkley stated, but as administrators looked to the future, they realized UMC could not be sustained over the next five or six years “because in this business, scale matters.”

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