LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two Louisville-based healthcare giants are locked in a battle that only continues to get uglier.

The fight is between Norton Healthcare and the University of Louisville.

The war of words began last week when Norton Healthcare, which operates Kosair Children's Hospital, announced it wanted to partner with U of K Healthcare and Children's Hospital of Lexington.

"The University of Louisville has searched to stop this great partnership and frustrate plans that will better serve Kentucky's children," said Stephen Williams, chief executive of Norton Healthcare.

Williams' comments come after U of L on Tuesday said that Norton's intended partnership with UK means Norton is in violation of a lease agreement with the state concerning the Kosair Children's property.

U of L says Norton's partnership with UK would damage U of L.

The university says a 1981 agreement between Norton and the state stipulates that the land the hospital sits on must be used to the benefit of U of L. U of L, in a letter to the governor's office, says Norton is motivated by pure and simple profit.

"The university is threatening to evict us from the children's hospital we own," Williams said. "Not only is this threat without merit, it is a great disservice to the caregivers who serve at Kosair's Children's Hospital and an irresponsible assault on the critically important subject of providing lifesaving care."

Williams says he wonders if U of L's recent statements are a power play following U of L's alignment with Norton competitor Catholic Healthcare, which now operates University Hospital.

"We would be saddened to learn that this eviction threat is instead an effort by the university to transfer the hospital we own to Denver, Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, as they did with their University Hospital last year," Williams said.

Dr. David Dunn of U of L Healthcare sees it differently.

"We have been trying to solve a very simple problem for over three-and-a-half years with them," Dunn said. "And they don't want to solve it in a way that is satisfactory to us."

There has been bad blood before between U of L and Norton. Several years ago, Norton hired away eight neurosurgeons from U of L.

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