There Is A New Hospital in Louisville!

nch-logo-500The anticipated announcement that Norton Healthcare would change the name of its Children’s Hospital following the settlement of its legal dispute with Kosair Charities was made today.  On November 10 the, former Kosair Children’s Hospital will be named Norton Children’s Hospital.  The new name follows the format used by Norton’s other local hospitals.  The Kosair appellation will also be dropped from other healthcare facilities that shared names including outpatient centers, a women’s and children’s hospital, and a network of pediatric medical general and specialty practices.

According to today’s press release:
“In 1981, the Kosair Charities Committee and Norton-Children’s Hospital entered into an agreement whereby the Kosair name would be used on the hospital.  Following a mutual decision in late June 2016 to end the naming rights agreement, Norton Healthcare and Kosair Charities agreed that the name Kosair would be removed from all Norton-owned facilities and medical practices.” and…

 “We thank Kosair Charities and its members for their support and dedication to the Commonwealth’s children,” [Hospital President] Kmetz said. “Both organizations remain committed to meeting children’s health care needs. We will now pursue that focus independently.”

And so, what began as an amicable partnership that became a major focus of Kosair Charities’ fundraising efforts, ends deceptively gently after an acrimonious legal dispute initiated by Kosair Charities.  For a relatively small contribution towards charitable care in the Children’s Hospital, Kosair Charities had a top billing in the name of the largest and most respected children’s healthcare network in the state.

Why did Kosair switch sides?
It is likely that only insiders of the Kosair Charities Committee will know what instigated the divorce.  The justification used by Kosair to initiate litigation was that Norton Healthcare was improperly using its contributions.  I am not aware that any of the legal proceedings bore out those claims. Kosair’s contribution was puny compared to the total amount of uncompensated medical care at Children’s Hospital. According to its newest methodology for allocating Medicare funding to the nation’s acute-care hospitals, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Systems has determined that Norton’s Hospitals in Louisville provided more uncompensated care by far than any other hospital entity in the state. [University of Kentucky Hospital was number two, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s and University of Louisville hospitals were numbers three and four.]

Based on what was in my opinion at the time to have been a dubious claim, Kosair withdrew from its previous agreement to contribute to charity care at the hospital.  All of this occurred at the same time the University of Louisville was attempting to wrest physical control of Children’s Hospital from Norton Healthcare in order to be able to place it at the service of Catholic Health Initiatives and later of KentuckyOne Health. The search for research money was driving the University’s motivation. Kosair Charities began to direct its charitable contributions to University of Louisville research initiatives. The statue of the Silent Messenger holding the boy with crutches moved down the street from Children’s Hospital to UofL’s Commercial Transitional Research Building – now bearing the name of Kosair.  The Children’s Hospital Foundation will now continue to independently raise its own money for charitable care at its newly-named hospital. Potential donors will have to decide where they will direct their contributions and will be watching how their money is used. I wish both parties success in their advocacy for, and support of children.

My take on the dispute.
The Kosair Charities lawsuit against Norton appeared to me and others as part of a tag-team effort of Kosair and the University against Norton. The University of Louisville and Norton Healthcare settled earlier this year their legal dispute about who owned Children’s Hospital on terms favorable in virtually every regard to Norton Healthcare.  In my mind, this result confirmed the specious nature of the University’s claims.  The University’s administration; led by its President James Ramsey and Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, Dr. David Dunn; had promised to deliver a children’s hospital to their new exclusive clinical partner, CHI and subsequently KentuckyOne Health.  They failed to do so.  In the process of throwing this grenade, they completely destroyed useful relationships between the University and its long-standing partners – indeed the general medical community.  It will take years to repair the damage done to the medical center.  In the meantime, Ramsey, Dunn, and others who advocated for the partnership have faded from the scene, leaving a new University administration to clean up the mess.  I predict that in the next few weeks that we will hear of either a dissolution or major re-negotiation of the agreement between the University of Louisville and KentuckyOne Health.  In my opinion, the status quo benefits neither side and is unsustainable. I am concerned about who will be left holding the bag.

Turbulent times offer the opportunity for positive change.  At least with respect to the Children’s Hospital, I’m optimistic, if not hopeful, that things will get better more quickly.  I have not heard of problems between the Department of Pediatrics and Norton Healthcare over their new cooperative clinical management structure.  This must be the outcome.  There are other hospitals and medical professionals to which Louisville can turn. There can be only one Children’s Hospital.

The entire executive leadership of the University and its Foundation is changing, as is the administration’s relationship with its Board of Trustees. It appears that the Foundation that manages the assets of the University will no longer be the tail that wags the dog.  As the University of Louisville demonstrates its willingness to start over, it will have earned the full support of its community in both spirit and dollars.

Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UofL
September 28, 2016