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University, Jewish Hospital In Partnership Talks

By Rick HowlettTalks of a partnership or merger  involving some major Louisville hospital groups are being held.Officials from Jewish Hospital and St. Mary's Healthcare released a statement today saying they're holding discussions with University of Louisville Medical Center leaders and Catholic Health Initiatives on how they might work together.No one involved in the talks is commenting publicly.The statement says the talks are prompted in part by this year's passage of the federal health care overhaul bill. It says the new law will "dramatically alter the environment for disease prevention and in which care is delivered."The full statement is below:A statement regarding partnership discussions:In order to promote our shared commitment to patient care, biomedical research, and the education of the next generation of health care providers, the leadership of the University of Louisville/University Medical Center, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare (JHSMH) and Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) are holding discussions to explore how they could work together in a more formal partnership to better serve Kentuckians.Catholic Health Initiatives, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCareand the University Medical CenterThese conversations are driven by the fundamental changes that are occurring in clinical medicine, demographics, and the needs of Kentuckians.Over the next five years, the Healthcare Reform Act will dramatically alter the environment for disease prevention and in which care is delivered. Changes brought by legislative reform will place demands on all healthcare providers that must be addressed proactively to ensure future viability. Practicing physicians, medical educators, scientists, and hospitals will need to work together to find solutions and make substantive and innovative changes in the way care is delivered, students are educated, and new knowledge is generated.In Kentucky, we must find new and better ways to attack the serious health issues facing our population. We have the undesirable distinction of leading the nation in the incidence of lung cancer – our rate is 50% higher than the national average. We are fourth in the nation in overall cancer incidence. Our ranking in the Top 10 doesn’t end there. We are seventh in the nation in obesity and the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease. We are also ninth in the number of deaths from heart disease as well as from stroke.In 2005, Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services (JHHS) and CARITAS Health Services, a part of CHI, merged to form JHSMH. This followed more than 19 months of discussions and negotiations. JHHS and CHI are the parent organizations of JHSMH, and appoint a joint board to oversee the combined company.The University of Louisville/University Medical Center (UMC) and JHSMH have a historical partnership in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, community and family medicine, ophthalmology, and solid organ transplantation. Additionally, the organizations work together closely to provide critical services to patients seeking care for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy, as well as rehabilitation medicine following a stroke or a traumatic neurological accident such as a spinal cord injury. Together, these organizations have pioneered new medical procedures in cardiac surgery, adult cardiac stem cell research, and organ and tissue transplantation. The two organizations have an extensive partnership in providing a location for medical student, internship, and residency education. The University of Louisville and JHSMH have also been at the forefront of developing new organizations such as the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute.CHI is interested in broadening its relationships in Kentucky, where it has made significant investments in healthcare. CHI leaders see many opportunities to make a positive difference in the state by transforming how healthcare is delivered, expanding access to care, contributing to the mission of academic medicine, and building healthier communities. CHI shares the deeply held commitment of the faculty and staff of the University of Louisville and JHSMH to serving historically underserved and marginalized populations.With an eye toward the fundamental changes that are ahead for health care providers, the boards of JHSMH and UMC are discussing the benefits of forming an integrated partnership that will position the organizations for the future.Board representatives have evaluated a possible network that has relationships across the Commonwealth, the role of academic medicine in the delivery of healthcare services, the needs of Kentucky for medical education, and how a formal partnership could help prepare for the significant number of Kentuckians who will be added to the rolls of health insurers.There are still many issues to discuss and resolve over the coming months as the organizations work toward a possible letter of intent. Board representatives must address a number of major items, including equity/ownership, governance structure, the management of medical education, and the integration of the academic mission throughout the proposed organization.No final recommendations or decisions have been made. Additional information will be shared over the next several months as part of an ever-expanding dialogue between organizational leadership, the community, public officials, the staff of the institutions, and the faculty of the School of Medicine and community physicians.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.