Open Letter to Governor Steve Beshear Concerning Acquisition of University of Louisville Hospital

Last week I submitted the following letter to the Governor’s Office.

Governor Steve Beshear
700 Capitol Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

Re: Premature approval of hospital acquisition in Louisville.

Dear Governor Beshear,

You have been asked to consider approving a merger/acquisition involving the University of Louisville and University Hospital, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s, and the St. Joseph’s Hospital System under the auspices of Catholic Health Initiatives.   Individuals and Organizations (including women’s organizations) in the Louisville Community who have written or spoken about this matter are overwhelmingly against this merger, save for employees of the University, or its business partners.   The opposition continues unabated despite several public and private briefings.  This is in great measure because of the puzzling refusal of the proposal advocates to disclose relevant details supporting the real public or indigent-care need for the merger, or the implementation of its most controversial elements– especially those revolving around church and state issues. Continue reading “Open Letter to Governor Steve Beshear Concerning Acquisition of University of Louisville Hospital”

Let Them Eat Cake! (In somebody else’s hospital.)

I have been reviewing all of the letters sent to the Courier-Journal by members of the community.  So far, without exception, all have been employees, faculty, or associated with one of one of the proposed partner institutions, or capital venture company that benefits from the University’s commercial research program.  One of these letters is particularly painful to me.

It was written by a medical student who has not yet even begun his clinical training.  It begins by parroting an assortment of the arguments that have been made by the University and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s almost as if the letter were from a University official.    Nonetheless, even a medical student deserves to have their voice heard, and perhaps especially a medical student, whose training will be very much affected by the proposed change in business structure.  The last sentence however broke my heart.  When speaking about the women’s health policy regarding tubal ligations, the writer concludes, “patients who don’t want to deal with it can always choose to go elsewhere.”  This is one of the most unfeeling  comments I have seen with respect to this proposed merger/acquisition.  I hope someone has taken the student aside and counseled them. Alas, perhaps not the two faculty leaders who also wrote regarding end-of life care, “When the stipulations of the Catholic Church make it difficult to follow the patients’s and families wishes, the patient can be transferred to another facility where the desires of the patient and family can be met.”

I hope the student above can bring more sympathy to the patients he may have the privilege of attending to in the future.  Perhaps as he learns to take a medical and social history from those patients he will learn that in fact these patients do not have a choice of going elsewhere.  That is the whole point!  Shame on the University of Louisville School of Medicine, its leadership, and its faculty for creating an environment where such a statement is thought justifiable by your student.  The privilege of caring for the indigent must be earned.  In past months, the University of Louisville has in my opinion abused that privilege.  The majority of the patients, students, trainees, and employees of the proposed merged entity are not Roman Catholic, yet their most intimate personal decisions are now subject to review by somebody else’s bishop.   How can that stand?

Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Dec 5, 2011

Why Is A Bishop Even In The Room?

I was plowing through my unread pile of newspapers and came to the report by Patrick Howington of October 17; “Hospital Merger- Altered Catholic rules pose problems.”  A subtitle asserted that “Hospital officials say fears of church interference are overblown.”  Really!   In point of fact, they are not overblown at all.  A number of  examples of church and secular hospital mergers were listed for which the winks and nods and work-a-rounds that were approved by a local bishop were overturned later by higher authorities or changes in rules.  We are not talking about a theoretical problem.

By coincidence (or perhaps as a sign) as I read this article today, the leadoff report on the CBS Sunday Morning Show focused on a Catholic hospital in Phoenix.  A woman who was 11 weeks pregnant developed severe pulmonary hypertension as a complication of her pregnancy.  The result for both her and her fetus would have been fatal.  The local hospital Ethics Committee considered her case and gave its approval for an emergency abortion to save the life of the mother.  That decision was shared by the nun who sat on the committee.  The woman’s life was saved but her pregnancy was sadly but predictably lost. Continue reading “Why Is A Bishop Even In The Room?”

Still Another Hospital “Merger” in Louisville Kentucky

Potential Questions and Issues Related to the Proposed  Acquisition or Merger of University of Louisville Hospital with Catholic Health Initiatives.

I am very troubled with the way this vaguely defined proposal has been revealed to the public.  I cannot avoid the impression that important elements of the deal have been intentionally hidden.  There is a lot to cover and these initial thoughts just scratch the surface.  If I had an opportunity to ask clarifying questions, I would start with these.  I ask them from my perspective as a life-long medical educator, physician to both the rich and poor, and a lobbyist for higher education.  What do you think?

Nature of the Proposed Arrangement:
Is a true merger of hospitals planned, or simply an acquisition by another hospital chain?  For example, will the new entity have a single Medicare Provider number?  If a true full merger is not planned, why not?  Which, if any, hospitals will be truly merged, or is University Hospital just being put in play once again by another hospital chain?  What will be new?  For what is the University of Louisville, its Hospital, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky giving up precious independence and control?

University Hospital has been managed by at least 5 outside corporate chains or partnerships of hospitals in the last 25 years.  All failed.  Other existing or contemplated partnerships, programs, or mergers with Louisville Hospitals have also failed.   What were the reasons for those failures?  What plans have been made to ensure a better outcome?  Where can we see those plans?  Why not? Continue reading “Still Another Hospital “Merger” in Louisville Kentucky”