Education

UK-affiliated medical foundation appeals decision requiring public disclosure of documents

University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital
University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital File Photo

A medical foundation affiliated with the University of Kentucky will appeal a recent decision by Attorney General Jack Conway’s office that requires the foundation to turn over records for public inspection.

Marc Randall, director of the Kentucky Medical Services Foundation, said in a statement that the foundation thinks Conway’s office overreached because it suggested that Kentucky’s Open Records Act supersedes federal privacy laws.

“No one, whether the patient of a doctor, or the student enrolled in a local college, should be subject to having their personal, private and confidential information available to the media or general public,” Randall said.

Randall cited a 2013 case in which UK disputed an attorney general’s ruling that said state law trumps federal law when deciding which patient records are confidential. That case, however, was vacated when the university agreed to provide the Herald-Leader with the statistics it requested regarding child mortality rates.

“UK always appeals Attorney General opinions that state that the university should disclose records concerning patient privacy and patient safety,” Randall said.

The KMSF appeal was filed Friday in Fayette Circuit Court against Lachin Hatemi, a former UK medical student who first raised the issue. The appeal also states that making the foundation subject to open records would cause “unwarranted disclosures of third parties’ protected trade secrets and confidential information.”

Conway’s decision said the foundation was subject to the open records law because it is substantially run and controlled by UK, a public agency. KMSF bills patients and pays doctor at UK HealthCare. The attorney general has previously ruled that a nearly identical organization run by the University of Louisville is a public agency.

Kentucky’s open records law contains an exemptions that allows public agencies to withhold documents that contain information that, if disclosed, “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The foundation has made headlines in the past year because of its links to a controversial UK surgeon who lost his privileges in August. Paul Kearney alleged that UK administrators decided to pursue the revocation only after he started asking questions about how the foundation was spending money.

Hatemi is one of Kearney’s former students.

“UK’s trustees continue to turn a blind eye to financial dealings of KMSF, which has always been an affiliate of UK,” Hatemi said Monday. “Appeal of attorney general’s decision is a desperate effort from UK leaders to cover up decades of mismanagement of public monies.”

The foundation was created in 1978 because the UK medical school was having trouble offering competitive salaries to prospective faculty at the UK medical center. The foundation was set up to administer “practice plans,” which regulate medical charges and doctor pay, and to offer better benefits than UK could offer at the time.

The foundation’s board is made up of 18 clinical department heads in the UK College of Medicine and six other medical faculty, who are elected by their peers.

Randall, who is also chairman of the UK College of Medicine’s radiation department, said the foundation recently changed its bylaws to make records available to the public whenever possible so that business is conducted in a “transparent manner.”

The Herald-Leader has made several requests for documents to the foundation in recent months. Officials have provided the requested documents but have maintained they were not required to do so by law.

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford

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