U of L hospital deal a vast improvement

A standard from the crooner era of popular music told us, "Love is wonderful the second time around." So, it seems, are hospital partnerships.

The University of Louisville's new arrangement with KentuckyOne Health appears to have all of the benefits but none of the problems associated with last year's unsuccessful attempt to merge the school's University Medical Center with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's Health Care in Louisville and St. Joseph Health System in Lexington.

Jewish & Saint Mary's subsequently merged with St. Joseph to become KentuckyOne.

Gov. Steve Beshear rejected the merger attempt with University Medical Center because it would have turned over control of University Medical Center to Catholic Health Initiatives, St. Joseph's Denver-based parent, and because of concerns that end-of-life care and health services for women and the indigent could be curtailed under Catholic control.

The new agreement leaves the medical center under the control of the University Hospital board, and there will be no change in policies covering women's health issues or end-of-life care. In fact, under the agreement, the Center for Women and Infants will be a distinct operating unit outside the control of KentuckyOne.

But U of L will be able to attain its goal of becoming part of a statewide medical network that would bring University Medical Center an infusion of money.

The announcement of the agreement was accompanied by a pledge to invest $1.4 billion in the partnerships' institutions over the next 20 years.

Both Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway, who also objected to last year's merger, approve of the new agreement.

In a statement, Conway said, "The partnership will help (University) Hospital secure financial stability, protect care for the indigent and continue the excellent research and teaching that is conducted at our hospital."

All without giving up control of a public asset or the policies that govern medical care there.

If the deal is as good as it appears at first blush, this hospital partnership is way better the second time around.