The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the year. The University of Louisville contends--and Norton denies--that the agreement would kill UofL's longstanding affiliation with Kosair. UofL officials said they were blindsided by the agreement, saying Norton used a “cloak of secrecy” in their negotiations to build a “virtual monopoly” in neonatal care.
“Because leadership from UofL was never consulted regarding this proposal, and because we have been negotiating in good faith for more than three years to put a new, robust, long-term academic affiliation agreement in place that follows terms that both Norton and UofL agreed to in September 2012, we remain skeptical that the proposed arrangement is anything more than an attempt by Norton to control resources and referrals and maintain its financial bottom line as one of the top 10 wealthiest not-for-profit companies in the healthcare arena,” Dr. David Dunn, executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Louisville, said in a prepared statement.
Dunn added that the University of Louisville and UK have worked “together for years without a financially interested middle man,” citing as an example a collaborative effort to fight lung cancer.
The dispute escalated Wednesday. Norton countered with a statement accusing the University of Louisville of forging an “irresponsible assault on the critically important subject of providing life-saving care to our state's children.” Norton officials said they would proceed with the plan despite the objections.
“Frankly, this is a common sense approach to taking care of our kids during this time when money is tight and the needs are so great,” a Norton statement read. “This is the right thing to do.”
Norton officials alleged that the University of Louisville threatened to evict them from Kosair Children's Hospital, which University of Louisville denies. Norton also took a shot at University of Louisville Hospital's partnership with Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives.
“We would be saddened to learn that this eviction threat is, instead, an effort by the university to transfer the hospital we own to Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, as they did with their University Hospital last year,” a Norton statement read. “In fact, the affiliation agreement signed between the university and CHI last year gives the university the right to take their entire pediatric care relationship from Norton and give it to Catholic Health Initiatives. We will vigorously defend local control of children's hospital care in Louisville.”
After months of gridlock on how a private company like CHI could purchase a public facility like University of Louisville Hospital, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear last November approved the creation of KentuckyOne, a three-hospital, CHI-run organization that included University of Louisville Hospital.
KentuckyOne responded to a request for a comment on the situation that skirted the conflict and instead broadly defended the fledgling system's partnership with the University of Louisville: “Our focus is on fully integrating our comprehensive health system while delivering quality care in a safe environment.”
Follow Ashok Selvam on Twitter: @MH_aselvam
(This article was updated to clarify the structure of the agreement and Norton's position that it would not affect Kosair's affiliation with the University of Louisville.)