U of L officials working to find partner after merger proposal d - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U of L officials working to find partner after merger proposal denied

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville trustees met for nearly three hours Wednesday with leaders from U of L's Medical Center to discuss how to keep the hospital solvent after Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear shut down its recent merger proposal.

Dr. David Dunn, Vice President of Health Affairs, spoke with WDRB's Gilbert Corsey about the proposed next steps for the hospital around 11:30 a.m. immediately after the meeting ended. He wasn't able to go into a lot of detail about the discussions because of state law.

"Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, we are following state procurement policy, and state procurement policy prevents us from publicly discussing the detailed information at this juncture," Dunn said.

Dunn did say that the board of trustees was given more information about where they stand after issuing RFPs (request for proposals) for a partner agency for the University Medical Center after consultants advised that "UMC cannot last much longer without a health system partner."

"So at that point we had issued an RFP (request for proposal) and this was a joint request for proposals by the University of Louisville and the University Medical Center."

In January, Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway rejected the University's proposed merger that would have brought UMC, Jewish Hospital, Saints Mary and Elizabeth hospitals, and Catholic health Initiatives -- CHI -- together under the same ownership.  The state had raised concerns about private ownership of a public hospital.

Dunn says this time things are different because "we are not considering a merger and we went into the request for proposal process with a number of parameters built into the actual deal, if you will. One of the most of important of which was we would not have the Commonwealth lose control of the public asset, that we would maintain all clinical services, including the Center for Women and Infants in UMC."

Time is of the essence while trustees review proposals: expensive changes from healthcare reform are looming and the hospital just announced the elimination of some heart surgeries.

Honi Goldman has been an outspoken opponent of the merger from the outset.

"Instead of merger they're using partnership," Goldman said. "What does it really mean? The problem has always been the lack of transparency."

Goldman says the mayor and governor need to appoint a task force "that really looks into this."

Gov. Beshear explained his reasons for vetoing the original merger.

"After exhaustive discussions and research, I have determined that this proposed transaction is not in the best interest of the Commonwealth and therefore should not move forward," Beshear said in a statement released in January. "In my opinion, the risks to the public outweigh the potential benefits."

In the statement, Beshear said he understands that the "changing healthcare industry has caused significant challenges for both University and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's Healthcare," but added that the administration is committed to "help them fulfill their missions and succeed in a changing health care economy."

Beshear was the only public official required to sign off on the merger.

Dunn says they have addressed the state's concerns about providing public care.

"We would not have the Commonwealth lose control of a public asset and...we would maintain clinical control over surgical services including the center for woman and infants."

Several proposals are currently being considered, and Dunn says officials hope to select the most promising by Sept. 28.

No word on whether other hospitals such as Baptist or Norton or Catholic Healthcare -- the parent company of Kentucky One Health -- have submitted a bid.

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