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University of Louisville trustees have approved a plan under which U of L would take over the Louisville-area assets of KentuckyOne Health, including the financially-struggling Jewish Hospital.
Experts say Louisville and its university need health care and medical teaching facilities, but questions of whether the University of Louisville l can make Jewish Hospital profitable might make it hard for legislators to support U of L’s purchase of the hospital.
The discussion was part of WFPL’s In Conversation, in which we talked about U of L’s planned purchase of Jewish Hospital and other properties, and how it could affect the city and state. Our guests were:
- Kentucky Senator Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville)
- WFPL Health Reporter Lisa Gillespie
- Kentucky Senator Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield)
- University of Louisville Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Kentucky Health Policy Institute Founder Peter Hasselbacher
The University of Louisville announced plans to buy Jewish Hospital and Louisville properties owned by its parent company Catholic Health Charities last week. CHI decided to sell Jewish and other major hospitals across Louisville in 2017 because of financial troubles. But U of L’s plan hinges on a $50 million partially-forgivable loan from the state, which needs legislative approval. State Senator Morgan McGarvey said some lawmakers are concerned about the deal.
“We’re taking a hospital, no matter how much we love it, no matter how great it has been, it is not doing well now. And we’re merging it with the University of Louisville, which is coming out of some struggles,” McGarvey said. “Is buying a building that has $30 million losses, and has been decreasing market shares steadily for a decade, the best way to get Louisville in a great position to have a good teaching hospital?”
For some, the topic is personal. WFPL Health Reporter Lisa Gillespie talked to some patients from the hospital’s heart transplant program who said the hospital is special to them. The planned suspension of that program has since been cancelled, and U of L and Jewish Hospital say they’re working to maintain the heart transplant program.
“For a lot of people, when you’re sick, you go to the doctor and you develop this relationship,” Gillespie said. “We need to keep that in mind. I think it’s just balancing that out with the finances. Is U of L going to be able to bring it back?”
Kentucky Senator Stephen Meredith said that question makes it hard to support buying the hospital.
“The private sector won’t even touch this relationship so that really concerns me. What are we going to do to make Jewish profitable?” Meredith said. “You can’t just sprinkle pixie dust on it and then think, ‘Well, tomorrow it’s going to turn a profit.’”
University officials have not said how they plan to turn around the hospital. Dr. Peter Hasselbacher said the city should be involved in the deal.
“We have a time now in Louisville where we can make some decisions about how we want to go forward,” Hasselbacher said. “That decision is too important to let the University of Louisville alone.”
The deal is expected to close by Nov. 1, and the General Assembly meets in January. McGarvey said he does not believe Governor Matt Bevin will call a special session in time to address the issue before then.
Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk with the Courier Journal’s Deborah Yetter about her series on child abuse and neglect in Kentucky.