University of Kentucky Dental Professor Forced Off Faculty for Criticizing Gov. Bevin’s Medicaid Cuts Gets $620,000 in Court Settlement.

Yes.  But, behind them I suspect is the Emperor.
                                            Paul Atreides, in “Dune.”

More than a year ago I wrote about the capture of the academic process by the Kentucky Governor’s Office where some unnamed individual with clout became “pissed-off” when Dental Professor Dr. Raynor Mullins exercised both his faculty and first-amendment rights to suggest that cutting back on dental and vision services to Medicaid beneficiaries was a bad idea. Everyone involved seemed to know who in Frankfort held the power to intimidate the leadership of our “Flagship University,” but the Governor’s office denied any involvement in the matter.  (We have encountered that scenario before, right here in River City!)  The University rolled over and dismissed Dr. Mullins.

In response, and to both hold the University accountable and presumably to shine a bright light on what actually appended, Dr. Mullins filed a lawsuit against the persons of the Vice President for Administrative and External Affairs and the Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.  In my earlier commentary, I opined that perhaps under oath that the truthfulness of the allegations would come out– or not!  It is not clear to me that any such disclosure happened. The University requested of Federal Judge Robert Wier a summary judgement (dismissal) of the case against it which was denied.  As I understand it, before the case was to go to a jury trial, a private settlement was reached without any admission of guilt.  I do not know how much pre-trial discovery was done. Today’s reports in the Lexington Herald and Courier-Journal do not refer to any information from depositions taken under oath.  Often such settlements include clauses of confidentiality that hide embarrassing findings from public view. Is it conceivable that court records might be sealed?  Is it possible that we may never know to whom the UK officials caved?

What is just as disturbing as not ever knowing the identity of the bully is the claim that communication within the University and with the Governor’s office in this matter was conducted using personal e-mails.  The use of personal electronic devises and emails to skirt open-meeting and open-record laws is an emerging threat to the ability of the public to hold its government accountable.

The University of Kentucky does not come off looking good in this matter.  It seemingly admits no guilt at all, but some UK entity now has a 6-figure settlement to pay with legal fees to boot. Dr. Mullins is taken back in to the faculty. Transparency disappears. No one is held accountable. Dr. Mullins may not have achieved all his goals, but in my view, he stood up to the state agency that is the University of Kentucky and won!

Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine,
University of Louisville
Dec 10, 2018

[If anyone has public court documents or other information that might shed light on this sad affair– or for that matter correct any misunderstanding of mine– I hope they will communicate with me confidentially or with the email link found in the side-bar of this website.]

Here is a copy of Judge Wier’s opinion of 9-28-18

UofL-Norton Dispute over Norton Kosair Children’s Hospital: Documents and Statements

The prominent dispute between Norton Healthcare and the University of Louisville over who controls what at Louisville’s Norton Kosair Children’s Hospital broke into public view the day I was leaving for a two week cruise around the British islands. I have been scrambling to catch up ever since. Due to the magic of technology, I was able to post two initial articles from the Amsterdam Airport and the middle of the Irish Sea.

There has also been much local media attention ably reported by Terry Boyd of Insider Louisville, Laura Ungar of the Courier-Journal, David A. Mann of Business First, Devin Katayama of WFPL, and others. Our local television outlets also covered the story. The matter spilled over to the national media. It is a great story for journalists!

Show Us the Documents.
Many statements have been attributed to the various players at Norton and UofL. Naturally, each wants to advance their particular viewpoints and each claims to be acting in the public interest. Some of the statements reported seem contradictory to me.

My instinct throughout this policy blog has been to go to primary documents and data wherever possible. In that spirit, I intend to use this post to assemble all primary documents and official press releases to make them available to the pubic. Therefore, I begin a list below of material I have available now. I will add to it as more become available.

Invitation to UofL and Norton.
I have seen emails and been shown other information intended for your internal use, but I am unsure of my right to make these public. I invite both parties to allow me to post the documents and internal communications to employees underlying their dispute so that the public can make reasoned judgments of their own. Because this matter is so important to Louisville and the Commonwealth, I do not think your argument should be conducted behind closed doors. We have a valid right to know the facts. In particular, I invite both Norton and UofL to send me their Affiliation Agreements, past and present, as well as the “Term Sheet” so frequently referred to in their legal letters. What is it you are really arguing about?

In the background.
There are another players mentioned in these documents whose relationship with UofL unavoidably and inextricably involves them in this matter: Catholic Health Initiatives and KentuckyOne Health. In fact, because KentuckyOne Health is now managing the Certificate of Need process for expanding the number and type of NICU beds at University of Louisville Hospital, I would say it is right in the middle!  Clinical and academic agreements exist between UofL and KentuckyOne that are highly relevant and of legitimate concern to Norton and the medical community. I have written about these before. Therefore, I also invite UofL and CHI/KentuckyOne to make their current affiliation and partnership agreements and other relevant documents available to us. In the meantime, I will summarize again in another article what I was able to extract from earlier public merger and partnership documents.

Continue for list of documents and statements. Continue reading “UofL-Norton Dispute over Norton Kosair Children’s Hospital: Documents and Statements”

UofL and Norton Healthcare go to the Mattresses.

The Battle for Ownership of Norton Kosair Children’s Hospital.

I do not have a feeling for how this is going to turn out, but the University of Louisville has loosed its dogs of war and nothing will be as it was. Perhaps that is for the good, because the existing structure of the downtown medical center was becoming more and more dysfunctional. Much of what is being aired now in terms of accusation and response is targeted to the media and public opinion. Ultimately a solution will be based on previous agreements to the extent that they are still valid and rational, and, if there is any reason and justice in the world, what our state government leadership judges is best for the citizens of Louisville and the Commonwealth.

After approving and even endorsing the partnership between the University of Louisville and Catholic Health Initiatives/KentuckyOne Health in which the University gave up significant pieces of its academic, clinical, and research independence, Kentucky’s Governor and Attorney General promised us they would monitor how the University of Louisville handled its subsequent affairs. Now is a good time to do so! I have already called for an unwinding of the current partnership structure for other reasons.

While the initial legal and political maneuvering in the background goes on, and in the absence of any inside information at all (Hint, hint!), I begin here to analyze available documents that are said to control our community’s future. In this with additional documents, I will pose questions for which I think the pubic deserves answers in order that it will be able to express it own reasoned opinions to the parties involved, including to our public officials.

In the first (and earliest) document available to me, I find no requirement that Norton Healthcare operate a children’s hospital to the exclusive benefit of any entity within the University of Louisville. Indeed, any benefit is assigned equally to all citizens of Kentucky. Neither do I find in this initial primary document that the lack of an affiliation agreement voids the lease held by Norton. Circumstances that may have made sense 30 years ago have changed dramatically. No party in the current confrontation deserves to be held hostage by the other. Continue reading “UofL and Norton Healthcare go to the Mattresses.”