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Kentucky Lawmakers Question U of L’s Plan To Buy Jewish Hospital With $50 Million State Loan

J. Tyler Franklin

A state legislative hearing got heated Monday after lawmakers questioned the University of Louisville’s plan to acquire Jewish Hospital with help from the state.

Last month, state and university officials announced plans to purchase the struggling Jewish Hospital system and associated KentuckyOne Health in a deal that is contingent upon a $50 million loan from the state.

State Sen. Stephen Meredith, a Republican from Leitchfield, questioned why the state should bail out the struggling Louisville hospital while it hasn’t stepped in to help closing rural hospitals, like Pineville Community Hospital, which has been struggling to stay open.

“Aren’t we picking winners and losers when we participate in these kind of efforts? Why should we spend $50 million for Jewish, but we’re not going to be doing anything for Pineville Community?” Meredith said.

Jewish Hospital has struggled financially for years and had low medical safety and quality scores, which have recently improved slightly.

The hospital plays an important role for University of Louisville’s medical school, which uses the facility to train medical students and conduct research.

University officials have worried that the school’s status as a medical research institution would be hurt if the hospital closes.

State Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, says he wants the school to have a quality teaching hospital, but he’s still skeptical.

“I want to make sure that this deal — U of L buying Jewish Hospital — is the right way to make sure that we have a first rate teaching hospital at the University of Louisville. And I remain unconvinced that that’s the case at this point,” McGarvey said.

U of L officials say the Jewish Hospital building in downtown Louisville has a three year life expectancy and the system needs millions of dollars in IT and other improvements. The Jewish and KentuckyOne Health systems have been losing about $43 million annually.

After the meeting, U of L Health CEO Tom Miller said that lawmakers were more concerned about the financing of the deal than the patients.

“Had Jewish Hospital closed down, there would have been patients who could not have gone to any other place. 35,000 ER visits, where are they going to go?” Miller said.

Miller said that U of L’s deal to buy the hospital system is scheduled to close November 1, even if the state doesn’t furnish the $50 million loan.

“It’s not easy, we will have to cut back on some capital improvements we would need to do, we would have to move forward faster on some of the integration aspects that we have. It’s not easy. We’re not sure we can get it done,” Miller said.

Gov. Matt Bevin, House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers have all indicated that they support the deal. Whether or not to fund the $50 million loan will be up to the lawmakers during next year’s budget-writing legislative session.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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