The University of Kentucky should accept the Attorney General's ruling that its Kentucky Medical Services Foundation is subject to our state's Open Records Act.
The nonprofit foundation was created by UK in 1978 so UK's hospital and medical school could attract and retain physicians whose pay and benefits were otherwise limited by UK's compensation structure. The foundation regulates charges for medical services, collects from patients and insurers and pays all UK physicians.
Its activities did not gain a lot of public attention until recently when dismissal proceedings began against Dr. Paul Kearney, a long-time, award-winning surgeon at UK.
Kearney contends UK was reacting to questions he had raised regarding the operations of KMSF's financial dealings and management. UK officials, who withdrew Kearney's clinical privileges in August, said they were responding to years of complaints about unprofessional behavior on his part.
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KMSF has been generally responsive when news organizations, including this one, requested information and when a former student of Kearney's, Dr. Lachin Hatemi, asked for extensive records. However, KMSF has contended that it was not a public agency and wasn't required to release the information under the law.
Hatemi challenged both KMSF's contention that it wasn't covered under Kentucky Open Records Law and its withholding of some data he requested.
The record in the dispute shows that UK established the foundation, that its board is made up of 18 clinical department heads in the College of Medicine and six other medical faculty, and that it cannot change its articles of incorporation or bylaws without the written consent of the university.
The attorney general's conclusion in the end is pretty simple: "Our analysis can yield a single result: the Kentucky Medical Services Foundation, Inc., was established and created by the University of Kentucky and its College of Medicine, and the University and the College of Medicine control the Foundation. The Foundation is, therefore, a public agency."
Attorney general decisions in open-records matters carry the weight of law but can be appealed through the courts. UK has not yet said if it will appeal this ruling. It shouldn't.