Beshear, Conway weigh in on proposed hospital merger

catholic doctrine issue stirs debate

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comJuly 28, 2011 

Following growing tensions between health care executives and those opposing the proposed merger among University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and St. Mary's HealthCare, and the St. Joseph Healthcare System, Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway are weighing in.

Beshear issued a statement Wednesday citing "growing concerns within the community about issues related to the hospital's future level of access to medical services" as a reason to conduct a "deliberate and thoughtful" review of the merger. The statement added that all "concerns need to be fully vetted" before the merger can move forward.

The St. Joseph Healthcare System is part of Catholic Health Initiative, which will own 70 percent of the merged company.

Concerns over how the doctrine of the Catholic Church would impact end-of-life treatment and the treatment of women's reproductive issues have become more public in recent weeks. The opposition and hospital executives have begun to duel in competing newspaper ads in The Courier-Journal of Louisville.

Conway told The Courier-Journal in an interview Wednesday that he plans to tell the Federal Trade Commission that the pending merger of three hospital systems in Kentucky can't go forward without the approval of the state. He intends to let the FTC know during a conference call Friday, Conway said.

In response to the escalating community concerns, Beshear said he will meet with hospital representatives and state officials and seek input from the community.

The state has a responsibility, according to the release from the governor's office, "to review the legal issues associated with the merger and, just as importantly, to review the public policy of how the University of Louisville Hospital will continue to honor its mission as a public teaching hospital that provides access and care to citizens, especially those who are indigent."

"The commonwealth must approve changes to the existing leases of public land and facilities as well as any changes to the agreements that provide for the operation of the hospital."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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