Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Secret UAMS-St. Vincent plan

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 6:00 PM

The Arkansas Times has learned that the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and St. Vincent Health System are in negotiations involving some kind of partnership in clinical care, and that details of the proposed association have gone to the governor’s office for consideration.

No one at UAMS will comment, except to say that no "merger" is planned and that the administration is assembling correspondence and memoranda concerning negotiations with St. Vincent requested by the Times under the FOIA. None has yet been supplied. Though some of this information could have (and should have) been provided immediately, UAMS has decided not to release anything until everything sought in the FOIA is assembled.

We can look to Kentucky for a hint of what is going on here. In January of this year, the governor of Kentucky prohibited a merger sought by the University of Louisville hospital with two private hospitals, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare Inc. and Catholic Health Initiatives. Though the plan was nixed, Insider Louisville reported last month that the University and CHI are still working to form a partnership.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear acted on information from the state attorney general that the proposed merger presented "significant and unprecedented public policy issues."

Catholic Health Initiatives operates St. Vincent Health System. One issue that comes to mind instantly is the Catholic Health Initiatives’ position on women’s health care: St. Vincent employees on the hospital’s health insurance plan cannot get coverage for contraceptives and the hospital does not perform abortions under any circumstances. How could that work in a taxpayer-supported setting?

Matt DeCample at the governor's office referred the Times to UAMS. No response yet from the University of Arkansas system.

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