By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
KentuckyOne Health announced plans last week to divest several Louisville hospitals, including Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital located in South Louisville, in order to focus the health system’s full efforts on serving central and eastern Kentucky.
KentuckyOne, owned by Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, also plans to sell: Jewish Hospital; Frazier Rehab Institute; Medical Centers Jewish East, South, Southwest and Northeast; Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, Saint Joseph Martin and KentuckyOne Health Medical Group practices in Louisville and Martin.
Ruth Brinkley, president and chief executive officer of KentuckyOne, said the restructuring plan has been in the works since December and said the “current structure is not sustainable.”
“The health care industry is going through significant — significant does not even begin to describe the magnitude — changes right now,” Brinkley said in a phone interview early this week.
She cited worry over reimbursements, the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act and the possible rollback of medicaid expansion in Kentucky as challenges in the current health-care climate.
“We want to focus our resources in central and eastern Kentucky, along with the unique role Our Lady of Peace provides,” she said. “We believe, with the changes, we will be in a better position to apply investments in to the remaining facilities.”
KentuckyOne Health will continue to operate Our Lady of Peace and Flaget Memorial Hospital, which is in Nelson County, Ky., and medical providers in Bardstown, Ky.
Outside the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky-
One will continue to operate Saint Joseph Hospital, Saint Joseph East, Saint Joseph Jessamine, Saint Joseph Mount Sterling, Saint Joseph London and Saint Joseph Berea, as well as KentuckyOne Health Partners Clinically Integrated Network and KentuckyOne Health Medical group practices in central and Eastern Kentucky.
Brinkley said it’s too early to speculate on future owners of the facilities, but she said the new owner could retain the religious affiliation of a hospital like Sts. Mary and Elizabeth, which was founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in 1874.
“The Catholic heritage of the facility and the mission, ministry and Catholic charism is very important to us. We will make sure as we start to settle in on potential buyers that communication is put in place to try to preserve the Catholic heritage,” she said.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said in a statement that Catholic health institutions in Louisville “have served the community well.”
“I have been grateful for the presence of Kentucky-One Health as it sought to work with Catholic hospitals and other providers to serve patients through improved care, better access, lower costs and a commitment to care for the poor and marginalized,” he said in a statement.
The archbishop offered his prayers for KentuckyOne and the hospitals and providers involved in the transition and said the situation “points to the vital need for good health care, especially for those who are poor and vulnerable, for all citizens from conception to natural death.”
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth also expressed an intention to “hold in prayer those facilities being transitioned.”
“The Congregation is hopeful that when the transition is finalized and new owners have been identified for Sts. Mary & Elizabeth, that sisters will have the opportunity to share the charism and history of this Louisville ministry,” the statement said.
Michelle Herberger, associate director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Family Ministries Office, said the sale of the Louisville hospitals, particularly Sts. Mary & Elizabeth, presents an opportunity to those concerned about Catholic healthcare.
“We have to be intentional. We have an opportunity now to look at how we want to continue in the healing ministry of Jesus,” she said.
Herberger, who leads the BeFriender Ministry program that provides pastoral care to hospitalized Catholic patients, said a number of possibilities exist, including forming communities of health care workers “who are formed and rooted in Catholic identity.”
“Times of sickness and death are significant times for evangelization as patients and their families wrestle with life and death issues,” she said. “It’s a time we can witness the Gospel through our presence.”
KentuckyOne Health was formed in 2012 by the merger of several health-care providers, including Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital and Jewish Hospital. Soon after, the University of Louisville Hospital joined the system.
The system currently employs 12,000 people. With the already planned transfer of ownership of the University of Louisville Hospital to the university on July 1, 9,500 employees will remain under the KentuckyOne umbrella.
Of that number, 4,000 employees work at the facilities being sold, which will leave about 5,500 employees after the transition. No layoffs are anticipated, Brinkley added.
She called the decision to sell its Louisville facilities and hospitals “difficult” yet “necessary.”
“Our footprint may be smaller, but our commitment has not lessened,” she said.