The city of Cincinnati has drafted a lawsuit to stop the privatization of University of Cincinnati Hospital, scheduled for Jan. 1.
The suit, expected to be filed late last week, charges that the university's trustees overstepped their bounds when they voted to lease the city-owned hospital to a newly created private not-for-profit corporation.
The hospital would be operated by Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, a consortium of four not-for-profit hospitals.
The university says it wants to unburden the 695-bed teaching hospital of state employment and bidding rules that add costs and prevent the hospital from competing successfully for managed-care contracts. It estimates that hospital salaries and benefits mandated by state law are 5% and 45% higher, respectively, than those of other local hospitals.
The city claims it gave the state-owned university the right to manage the hospital, but not the right to transfer control to another organization. Voters approved charter amendments in 1961 and 1976 that allow the City Council to transfer control over the hospital's "administrative and executive work."
"There are no words (in the city charter) to authorize the University of Cincinnati to do what they've done," said Richard Ganulin, the assistant city solicitor.
The city's action, filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, follows two others suits against privatization. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16 in county court to consider a request for an injunction filed by 12 taxpayers.
In a response to the taxpayers' suit filed to stop the privatization, the university called the city charter violation charge "completely without merit."
A bill that would create a public authority to oversee the hospital was introduced in the state Legislature but is unlikely to pass, said Deborah Schneider, regional director of District 925 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents some workers at the hospital.
Meanwhile, the university has been busy resolving the related issue of indigent-care funding. Hamilton County voters last week renewed an indigent-care tax levy, with all the proceeds going to University Hospital. The levy has been in place for years, but the county for the first time is requiring the hospital to sign an agreement about how the money will be used.