The biggest players in the Kentucky hospital market are choosing up sides in an effort, they say, to gain the geographic scale and integration of care needed to improve health outcomes statewide and compete regionally. As befits the rivalries among these players, however, they are taking different paths to those goals.
In November, UK HealthCare, the academic medical center of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and four-hospital Norton Healthcare, the largest system in Louisville, announced work on a statewide clinical partnership. Earlier this month, UK and Norton announced that their partnership will include a statewide collaboration in stroke treatment, an expanded collaboration in cancer care and a transplant clinic at Norton Audubon Hospital in Louisville staffed by UK physicians performing kidney, liver, heart and lung transplants, among other programs.
Then, last week, University of Louisville Hospital and two systems affiliated with Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives announced their plans to merge as a new system under a yet-to-be-announced name. The CHI systems are Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare, Louisville, and St. Joseph Health System, Lexington, with 14 hospitals between them. CHI is a joint-venture partner with Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services in the Louisville system as the result of a 2005 merger.