Health

The University of Louisville is ending talks to buy KentuckyOne Health, which includes the city’s struggling Jewish Hospital.

At a news conference Thursday morning, President Neeli Bendapudi said U of L hadn’t been able to find a suitable partner for the deal, and trying to acquire KentuckyOne on its own would have put the university at financial risk.

“When you’re flying, you know how they say, ‘put your mask on first, before you assist the person next to you,’ and the point is that we need to make sure that we are financially viable throughout this process,” Bendapudi said.

“For the University to go in on this alone, given the financial straits of KentuckyOne properties, was not a viable option for us.”

U of L has been exploring a purchase of KentuckyOne since December and issued a Request for Proposals for potential partners. In April, the university announced it was extending its academic affiliation agreement with KentuckyOne for another 90 days because the RFP process hadn’t turned up any suitable options.

U of L Health and Jewish Hospital have a long-standing business relationship. The hospital’s parent company pays U of L millions of dollars every year; in return, U of L physicians practice at Jewish Hospital (and the Frazier Rehab Institute). Jewish is home to U of L’s cardiology and transplant program, and some U of L medical students do their residencies there.

In the news release, the university said Catholic Health Initiatives — KentuckyOne Health’s parent company — will extend the academic affiliation agreement to ensure the programs continue. If they can’t continue at the current facilities, CHI “will assign those residencies to another facility requested by the university” according to the release.

“KentuckyOne Health is disappointed that the university was not able to secure a financial partner,” said Deborah Lee-Eddie, interim market CEO for KentuckyOne Health. “We will now continue our discussions with other interested organizations.”

Lee-Eddie didn’t elaborate in the release what those organizations may be.

The 462-bed Jewish Hospital has been struggling financially recently, and its parent company has been trying to sell it to various parties; before U of L, it seemed likely that Jewish would be sold to a hedge fund. Experts have speculated that without a buyer, the hospital could close because it’s not financially viable; last year, the Courier Journal reported: “Jewish and Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital lost a combined $41 million in operating earnings during the nine months ended in March [2018].”

WFPL’s Lisa Gillespie contributed to this story.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.