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University of Louisville Blasts Planned Collaboration Between Children's Hospitals

The University of Louisville is blasting a plan for Kosair Children's Hospital and the Kentucky Children's Hospital in Lexington to "join forces."Kosair Children's—run by Norton Healthcare—and the UK HealthCare-operated Kentucky Children's Hospital announced late Thursday that their leaders had signed a letter of intent to be jointly operated but remain independent through a new collaboration.In a joint statement on Thursday, the hospitals said: "(L)eaders from both organizations believe that by joining forces the two hospitals can leverage their individual strengths and improve the health care available to children throughout Kentucky."But the head of UofL's health operation said Kosair Children's sits on land that falls under a land lease agreement that dictates that the property "shall be used for the benefit of the University of Louisville."In a statement, David Dunn, UofL's executive vice president for health affairs, said UofL officials were "quite surprised that Norton would take such an action to jeopardize the positive relationship which has benefited our community for so many years."Further, this announcement calls into question whether Norton is now in violation of this land lease agreement with the Commonwealth of Kentucky."UofL is exploring what will be the effects of the Norton-UK HealthCare collaboration and then will decide what steps, if any, to take regarding the deal.The University of Louisville was negotiating on a "new, robust, long-term academic affiliation agreement" with the hospital on terms agreed upon about a year ago—but they weren't consulted in advance about the collaboration with UK HealthCare, Dunn wrote. He adds that care at Kosair's Children is provided "almost exclusively" by UofL faculty.Kosair Children's is the pediatric teaching hospital for UofL's School of Medicine, Thursday's announcement notes. The downtown Louisville hospital has 271 beds.Dunn's statement refers repeatedly to Kosair Children's as "UofL Norton's Children's Hospital." He adds: "(W)e remain skeptical that the proposed arrangement is anything more than an attempt by Norton to control resources and referrals and maintain its financial bottom line as one of the top ten wealthiest not-for-profit companies in the health care arena."In response to Dunn, Norton Healthcare said on Friday afternoon that the collaboration is only between the hospitals, not the university systems.The partnership won't change the hospitals' commitments to the research, teaching and clinical service needs  of UofL or the University of Kentucky, Norton Healthcare said in the statement."In fact, we fully expect our partnership to provide opportunities to expand those relationships and the service they provide Kentucky’s children," said the Norton statement.

“To be clear: Norton Healthcare fully meets – and will continue to meet – its obligations to U of L in the operation of Kosair Children’s Hospital. Annually, Norton provides over $25 million in support to the UoL pediatric program.”Thursday's announcement from Norton and UK HealthCare listed these as details of the partnership: Key hospital leaders, physicians and others representing the two children’s hospitals will work together to develop specific plans for the coordination and integration of clinical services and operations. Examples include:
  • Clinical integration, which includes clinical guidelines, patient care protocols and incorporating best practices. Other programs will enhance the availability, effectiveness, safety and quality of care provided for the two hospitals’ patients and pediatric providers.
  • Operational integration, with a focus on the pursuit of joint opportunities for the teaching, research and clinical services of the schools of medicine at UK and U of L with a shared goal and commitment to establishing the children’s hospitals as pre-eminent pediatric academic medical centers.
  • Financial integration that allows us to engage in collaborative decision making around financial and resource commitments to achieve cost efficiencies.

The hospitals will continue to have separate medical staffs, medical staff bylaws and rules and regulations.

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

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