Joining state lawmakers and hundreds of residents, three members of the Louisville Metro Council are criticizing the pending merger between U of L Hospital, Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. Council members Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, and Marianne Butler, D-15, signed a petition that will appear as a half-page advertisement in the Courier-Journal this weekend, which protests the hospital merger and says it will “stop vital medical procedures” for residents in the area.
The lucrative deal makes the Denver-based Catholic institute a majority owner over University Hospital, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Lexington-based St. Joseph Health System. But critics of the merger are concerned about the future of certain healthcare services such as vasectomies, stem cell research and other medical procedures of which the Catholic Church does not approve.
Welch says the merger endangers women’s reproductive rights because University Hospital serves poorer patients who rely on their healthcare services more than most.
“My main concern is that it won’t be status quo with women’s and men’s reproductive health. I certainly believe people have the right to decide if they want a tubal ligation or a vasectomy for family planning, ” she says. “And since University Hospital is our most indigent populated hospital, this is really going to cause problems.”
University officials have said $15 million will be set aside in the merger to either build or renovate facilities to provide potentially-banned services outside of the merged hospital. Besides reproductive rights, critics have also worried about how end-of-life decisions will be impacted by the church.
Responding to the outcry, Mayor Greg Fischer met with U of L President James Ramsey earlier this week to share his concerns and told reporters he trusts university officials will find a solution once doctors start complying with Catholic policies.
However, Welch says city lawmakers are concerned enough to review the $7 million indigent-care funding University Hospital receives from Metro Government. When the council’s budget committee examines the city budget in January, it could reroute those taxpayer dollars elsewhere.
“It may be that these people will have to go to other hospitals and we may have to disperse that fund to other hospitals that will do these services for our constituents. It’s a lot to look at and we’ll certainly stay on top of it,” says Welch.
The ad includes signatures of support from state representatives Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, and state Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Jack Conway said he plans to examine what role Catholic Health Initiatives will have in healthcare decisions in the merged entity. If approved by regulators the merger could take effect within a year.