University Hospital files suit saying it is not public; could affect merger, open records

 Attorney General Jack Conway may have ruled it a public entity and thus subject to open-records laws, but University Hospital officials are insisting that’s not the case and have filed a lawsuit saying it should not have to turn over documents to, among others, The Courier-Journal.

The implications go beyond the records issue and could affect the merger between University Hospital, Saint Joseph Health System and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare. A public governmental entity cannot favor one religion over another, under the state constitution. But if the merger goes through, all three health systems would be subject to certain Catholic health directives, such as those pertaining to sterilization, because Saint Joseph is owned by Catholic Health Initiatives.
“A ruling in the public-records case that University Hospital is a public entity will bolster the arguments of those opposed to the merger, while a ruling that it isn’t a public entity will favor merger supporters,” reports Dan Klepal of The Courier-Journal.
The lawsuit argues that University Hospital is a private, nonprofit corporation “because it is controlled by a board of directors, not the University of Louisville,” Klepal reports. U of L board members also cannot constitute a majority at any board or committee meetings; the hospital selects its own CEO; and manages its own finances and daily operations.
The suit further points to the fact that former Attorney General Greg Stumbo ruled it was not a public entity in 2006. “But that ruling was made when two private companies, Norton Healthcare and Jewish & St. Mary’s, were still partners with U of L in governing the facility. The following year, Norton and Jewish withdrew, leaving U of L as the hospital’s only overseer,” Klepal reports. (Read more)
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