UPDATE, July 27, 3:43 p.m.: Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement saying “It is clear there are growing concerns within the community about issues related to the hospital’s future level of access to medical services, and those concerns need to be fully vetted before the Commonwealth takes the legal steps required to approve this merger,” such as changes in leases of public property and agreements on operation of the hospital. Just as important as the legal issues, Beshear said, is “the public policy of how the University of Louisville Hospital will continue to honor its mission as a public teaching hospital that provides access and care to citizens, especially those who are indigent.” The governor said his administration “will hold a series of conversations with the principals in the proposed merger and other interested parties,” starting with a meeting among four of his cabinet secretaries, Mayor Greg Fischer, state Auditor Crit Luallen and Attorney General Jack Conway.
The merger that would put a Catholic health group in charge of the University of Louisville‘s hospital is growing ever more controversial, as demonstrated by today’s edition of The Courier-Journal. The top story was about U of L President Jim Ramsey’s uncertain response to a request by state legislators to answer questions of a legislative committee, accompanied online by a photograph of a somewhat sheepish-looking Ramsey, left. UPDATE, July 28: Ramsey says he will appear before the panel Aug. 17.
The paper’s editorial page was mainly about the issue. The top editorial was headlined “Ramsey’s silence,” and it referred to the second ‘editorial’ on the page, actually a recitation of email correspondence between Ramsey and one of his Fern Creek High School classmates and her husband, who oppose the merger and questioned Ramsey’s charcterization of an earlier C-J editorial as “not based on complete and factual information.”
Next to that piece was a letter from the lawmakers: Rep. Tom Burch, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee and a Catholic who opposes the merger because of its implications for reproductive and end-of-life procedures; and Reps. Mary Lou Marzian and Joni Jenkins of Louisville. It was illustrated by a photo of Ramsey looking thoughtful. Above it was a letter, illustrated by a photo of Pope Benedict XVI, from Eugenia K. Potter, former executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women, headined “Is it dogma or discrimination?” Conservative commentator Martin Cothran has a contrary view on his blog.
UPDATE, July 27, 8 a.m.: The C-J editorial page is again mainly about the issue, with an editorial urging the state auditor, governor and attorney general “to thoroughly scour and bring transparency to the negotiations with Catholic Health Initiatives;” an article by former University Hospital nurse Beverly Glasscock saying that the hospital wouldn’t be able to perform emergcy abortions needed to save a woman’s life; and a letter from former university trustee Bill Stone defending Ramsey from what he calls an “over the top” attack by the paper’s editorial board.