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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University Hospital and the Brown Cancer Center on Wednesday announced they have entered into a partnership with KentuckyOne Health, the same organization that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear refused to allow them to merge with earlier this year.
The announcement says the partnership lets University Hospital "continue to recruit and retain the best faculty for its health schools, which are critical as the pipeline of future generations of doctors, nurses, dentists and caregivers."
It also says the Brown Cancer Center will be able to "continue its core mission as an innovative academic medical center and a vital regional safety net hospital that provides the highest level of care to all patients."
Jewish Hospital and Saint Mary's Healthcare merged with Saint Joseph Health System and Catholic Health Initiatives back in January to create KentuckyOne Health. It employs more than 13,600 people at nearly 200 locations, and is the largest health system in Kentucky.
University of Louisville Healthcare was left out of the merger after Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear rejected University's involvement, raising concerns about private ownership of a public hospital. There were also questions about whether the deal would prohibit certain reproductive procedures from taking place at U of L Hospital because they go against Catholic doctrine, and whether indigent health care might suffer.
Hospital officials have said that 25% of the patients at inner-city hospitals cannot pay, often leaving that burden to the hospital.
Wednesday's agreement also emphasizes that current University Medical Center policies regarding women's health, end-of-life care, and its pharmacy will not change under this agreement. It says the "full range of reproductive services" will continue to take place at University Hospital's Center for Women and Infants. That's an action UMC said it took due to community concerns. It points out that state law already prohibits elective abortions at University Hospital.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said Wednesday the agreement appeared to address earlier concerns about ownership of the hospital, because it remains in state hands. He added, "It's going to infuse this medical center with over a billion dollars in present value over the term of the agreement. But it also maintains state control of the hospital, it does not transfer a state asset, it protects women's health, it maintains all current services, and ensures the hospital's ability to help care for our community's indigent.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said Wednesday, "I'm here to tell you that, as it is put together, and as it is written, these agreements fit within the legal and policy framework that I, along with Attorney General Jack Conway and others articulated when these issues first came to the forefront more than a year ago."
But at least one opponent of last year's proposed merger is still wary of this new deal. Honi Goldman is worried that any involvement by U of L with the Catholic Health Initiative could ultimately impact reproductive and end of life issues: "There's an old proverb about a camel sticking his nose in a tent. Pretty soon he takes over the tent. And one needs to be careful of camel's noses."
U of L and the University Medical Center say they decided upon the partnership with KentuckyOne for several reasons, including a "shared commitment to meeting patient and community health care needs," along with commitments to innovation and charity care.
They also noted shared goals for a statewide physician's network and a focus on high-quality care.
The partnership calls for a $543.5 investment over the first five years, and nearly $1.4 billion over the next 20 years. That money will go toward academics, IT infrastructure upgrades, research, and other projects.
"Above all, this collaboration will continue to improve health care outcomes for the Louisville community and Kentucky through a shared mission focused on teaching and academics, charity care, and research and innovation," said Ruth Brinkley, KentuckyOne Health CEO, in a news release.
KentuckyOne Health says it will maintain University Hospital's current levels of charity care. The hospital currently provides about $20 million in indigent care services each year for which it is not reimbursed.
The partnership is expected to be in place by March of next year.
U of L President James Ramsey said Wednesday, "This new relationship expands our resources into a state-wide network. That allows our students to have additional training opportunities and our faculty to be able to extend access to clinical trials to more people who may benefit while at the same time, extending the research opportunities."