Postel: KentuckyOne sell-off plan "a real problem" for Universit - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Postel: KentuckyOne sell-off plan "a real problem" for University of Louisville

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KentuckyOne Health owns Jewish Hospital in downtown Louisville KentuckyOne Health owns Jewish Hospital in downtown Louisville
Dr. Gregory Postel, interim president of the University of Louisville Dr. Gregory Postel, interim president of the University of Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  The University of Louisville shouldn’t rule out trying to acquire Jewish Hospital and the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute because the two downtown facilities have close ties to U of L’s School of Medicine, interim U of L President Greg Postel said Wednesday.

At the same time, Postel said it would be “very rational” for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to also look at buying Jewish instead of following through with its plan to spend $1 billion building a new VA Medical Center in the east Louisville suburbs.

Financially struggling KentuckyOne Health announced Friday that it was looking to sell almost all of its Louisville assets, including Jewish and the Frazier Rehab Institute.

KentuckyOne’s retreat from the Louisville market creates “a real problem” for U of L, Postel said in an interview Wednesday, because U of L doctors and medical residents provide many of the services performed at the two facilities.

“We are worried about patients and making sure they have beds. We are worried about the fact that there is a busy ER there (at Jewish Hospital), where a lot of the heart attacks in this city preferentially go,” Postel said.

Postel, a physician who is also U of L’s interim vice president for health affairs, added that some of U of L’s “signature programs” in medicine are “housed” within the facilities, such as U of L’s cardiovascular and thoracic surgery practice at Jewish and spinal cord injury research program at Frazier Rehab.

Regardless of who may end up with the KentuckyOne facilities, U of L is going to have to work out a deal to keep its presence at  Jewish and Frazier Rehab or find a new home for the programs, Postel said. University Hospital does not have enough space to fully absorb the programs, he said.

“We’re going to have figure something out, right?” Postel said. “Because those programs are going to have to reside somewhere. I wish I could tell you today what the answer is, but I truly don’t know.”

Postel said funding would be an obvious obstacle for U of L should it try to bid on either of KentuckyOne’s facilities.

“I think all options are on the table, (but) U of L doesn’t have a bunch of cash sitting around ... We can’t write anybody a big check,” he said.

At the same time, Postel suggested KentuckyOne might be motivated to hand over Jewish and Frazier, as it’s “no secret” the facilities are losing money.

“They might be better off giving them away,” Postel said.

David McArthur, a spokesman for KentuckyOne, said in an email that Jewish cares for "some of the sickest patients in Kentucky" through its agreement with U of L to provide things like such as transplant surgery and "highly complex" cardiac care.

"This care is very expensive, and the current reimbursement rates do not always cover the cost of care," he said.

He referred a reporter to Catholic Health Initiatives' financial statements, which do not disclose the revenue or profits of individual facilities within KentuckyOne like Jewish and Frazier.

As for KentuckyOne's willingness to "give away" the facilities, McArthur said: "We are confident that the facilities and sites of care will be attractive to another owner and operator for a variety of reasons." 

U of L just signed a one-year academic affiliation agreement to provide doctors and residents to the facilities, Postel said. The deal calls for KentuckyOne to pay U of L just shy of $24 million.

Normally those agreements are for multiple-year terms, but KentuckyOne offered only a one-year deal, Postel said.

“They obviously knew they were planning to sell so they gave us a short-term agreement,” Postel said.

McArthur confirmed that, saying KentuckyOne sought a one-year agreement because "strategic repositioning discussions were underway" at the same time the U of L deal was negotiated.

Postel:  VA should consider Jewish

Postel also said the VA should at least “think about” abandoning its plan to build the new VA Medical Center on an undeveloped field at Brownsboro Road and U.S. 42 and trying to acquire Jewish Hospital for the new facility.

Postel’s predecessor, James Ramsey, was among a number of Louisville leaders who unsuccessfully pushed in mid-2000s for the new VA Hospital to be downtown in the city’s medical district.

The VA said it wanted a “greenfield” suburban site that would be easier to build on.  

“They’re thinking about spending $1 billion to build a hospital when most people feel there are too many hospital beds in Louisville now,” Postel said. “… I think it should be at least looked rather at than building yet another hospital -- could there be some synergies? It could be a very rational thing to do.”

The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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