A county judge approved the breakup of the seven-hospital Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati today, ruling that three of its longtime members have the right to leave the 13-year-old healthcare system.
The ruling by Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Fred Nelson comes about a week after closing arguments in a bitter legal dispute between the alliance and three rebel members470-bed Christ Hospital, Cincinnati; 217-bed St. Luke Hospital East, Fort Thomas, Ky.; and 177-bed St. Luke Hospital West, Florence, Ky.
Gail Myers, a spokeswoman for the alliance, said officials were disappointed with the rulingwe disagree with it and are reviewing it to determine whether we will appeal. She said a decision will be made this week on an appeal, which would include a request that the judge order a stay to prevent the breakup during the appeals process.
The three hospitals contend that the alliance reneged on provisions of a joint operating agreement. Nelson, in a ruling from the bench, said the alliance breached its fiduciary duties in its management of the healthcare system.
Officials with the alliance, which filed a lawsuit in March 2006 in an attempt to block the breakup, have said they did nothing wrong, claiming that a split would cause irreparable harm to the overall system and its role as a safety net provider for the poor and uninsured.
Mike Keating, board chairman of Christ Hospital, said, We call upon the management and the board of the Health Alliance to drop its lawsuit and work with Christ Hospital to transform it to an independent entity as provided for in our operating agreement. -- by Michael Romano