LOUISVILLE — Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare in Louisville and Lexington-based Saint Joseph Health System announced Friday that the health care groups would merge to create Kentucky's largest health system.
The partnership is retroactive to Jan. 1. It was initially to have included University of Louisville Hospital, but Gov. Steve Beshear denied that request last week, calling the hospital a public asset that should not be controlled by the private sector.
The new umbrella organization will be known as KentuckyOne Health, although each hospital will retain its current name.
Ruth Brinkley, who will be president and chief executive of KentuckyOne Health, said it will be "a health care system that will give Kentuckians, especially the underserved, ... care that will be delivered with respect and compassion.
"The people of Kentucky deserve better than the status quo," she said.
Brinkley is former executive at Ascension Health and Catholic Health Initiatives. She also was associate executive director/chief nurse executive and associate dean for clinical practice at the hospital in Birmingham, Ala., the state's largest medical center.
Officials from the new organization said the merger was quickly assembled after Beshear rejected University Hospital's participation based on an opinion by Attorney General Jack Conway, who had expressed concerns over slippage of public control if the hospital joined a privately run health care group. Conway said the private organizations did not adequately engage with state government in bringing the deal to fruition.
Said David Laird, president and chief executive officer of Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare: "The governor has the authority to make the decision he's made. ... What we want doesn't really seem to matter."
However, Beshear released a statement Friday saying that the health care merger is very much on his mind.
"The attorney general and I had a good meeting with university representatives on Thursday afternoon, and we discussed some of the university's ideas for addressing some of the issues raised in the attorney general's report," the statement said. "We are reviewing those options and expect to get back to the university on Monday.
"We remain committed to supporting University Hospital in reaching our common goals of care for our most vulnerable citizens while maintaining solid financial standing for the institution."
Even though the original merger was unsuccessful, the organization will retain its strong ties with the University of Louisville's medical school, KentuckyOne officials said.
What the merger will mean to Lexington's big medical players at the University of Kentucky and Central Baptist and its system is not immediately clear. Paul Edgett, executive vice president of Catholic Health Initiatives, said the size of KentuckyOne should make a competitive difference.
The new organization is "the largest, most geographically diverse" health care system in Kentucky, he said, with hospitals from Martin in Floyd County to Louisville.
"It will be able to influence a large part of the population," Edgett said.