University of Kentucky HealthCare and Norton Healthcare officials said Tuesday they will team up to tackle some of Kentucky's toughest health problems.
The two health care giants had announced a partnership last November but had not revealed the details of their agreement.
The first part of their collaboration will include a transplant and specialty clinic in Louisville, which will open by the end of June, said Stephen Williams, president and chief executive of Norton Healthcare.
UK HealthCare has long said it was interested in expanding its solid organ transplant program. Michael Karpf, executive vice president of UK HealthCare, said that UK already is the benchmark in kidney transplant outcomes.
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With a transplant clinic in Louisville, patients in that region can be diagnosed and receive preoperative care there, get a transplant in Lexington, and then receive postoperative care back in Louisville.
The idea behind the collaboration, Williams and Karpf said, is to keep patients closer to home for all but the most specialized parts of their care.
"It's in the best interest of Kentuckians for us to coordinate between ourselves, as well as with other providers to develop mechanisms to keep people in Kentucky," Williams said.
Other areas that will be covered by the agreement, which is described as a collaboration rather than a merger, will include:
■ A statewide stroke collaboration, which includes a budget of $500,000 to set up a registry. No budget numbers were provided for other efforts, which Williams and Karpf said had limited costs.
■ A cancer program that will share resources, research agendas and clinical trials.
■ An educational network to address obesity and weight management.
■ Expanded teaching programs in which UK medical students can have a residency rotation at Norton Healthcare hospitals, and Norton Healthcare physicians can teach at UK.
The areas identified for collaboration — stroke, cancer, obesity/diabetes and obstetrics — are areas in which Kentucky faces particularly daunting challenges, Karpf said.
He said the collaboration's goals are not centered on increasing market share for high-end medical services, but rather on streamlining duplication to prepare for anticipated health care reform.
"We want to make sure that when health care reform is implemented, we have a rational health care system in Kentucky," Karpf said.
He said that if the UK/Norton partnership is going to perform an adequate number of services such as heart/lung and kidney transplants, it will need a regional base with additional medical partnerships in West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee.
"We need to build a program that's big enough to be sustainable over time," Karpf said.
Lexington-based UK HealthCare includes UK Chandler Hospital, Kentucky Children's Hospital, UK Good Samaritan Hospital, Kentucky Clinic, Markey Cancer Center, 80 specialized clinics and 140 outreach programs.
Louisville-based Norton, a non-profit, includes Kosair Children's Hospital, Norton Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital, Norton Audubon Hospital and Norton Suburban Hospital.
Together, the organizations have 16,900 employees serving patients at hundreds of locations throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana.
In November 2010, the non-profit companies that operate three of Kentucky's largest hospital networks — Saint Joseph Health Systems, University of Louisville Hospital and Jewish Hospital — announced their intent to merge. That merger is likely to conclude within the next month.