Michelle Hanks

It will likely take until September for University of Louisville Health to catch up on a backlog of elective procedures after they were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

University officials plan to begin performing non-emergency surgeries and procedures at about half the capacity it did before the pandemic starting on Wednesday.

“If we go back to more normal volumes beginning in June, we think it’s probably going to take us till about September to really get caught up on everything because we’d have a more normal schedule plus catching up on that volume moving forward,” said Chief Medical Officer Jason Smith.


Creative Commons

If Kentucky’s healthcare facilities become overrun with coronavirus patients, tough decisions may have to be made about who gets access to limited resources. But hospitals won’t be making those decisions in a vacuum — they’ll be guided by the state’s crisis standards of care plan. 

On March 30, Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephen Stack sent a copy of the state’s crisis standards of care plan to all hospitals in Kentucky. In an attached letter, he said that as coronavirus spread around the state, “crisis standards of care will need to be deployed to save the largest number of lives possible.” 

The 54-page plan lays out how hospitals should respond to “ethical challenges as a result of scarce critical resources,” in an effort to minimize illness, death, and adverse effects on social order and economic stability. It also includes a series of steps hospitals can take to expand their capacity amid a surge of need.

Kentucky Hospital Association

Local public health departments and hospitals are on the front lines of facing the coronavirus throughout the Ohio Valley, yet the health professionals who run these facilities say years of underfunding and hospital closures have diminished these services that now face the crisis.

Dan Brown, a former councilman for the riverside village of Bellaire, Ohio, believes the emergency management services in his community and Belmont County are strong in facing the coronavirus, with several volunteer fire departments in “spitting distance” from his village. But that’s not what he’s worried about.

Belmont Community Hospital in Bellaire closed last April, and five miles upriver, East Ohio Regional Hospital and Ohio Valley Medical Center near Wheeling, West Virginia, closed their doors. One hospital remains in Wheeling.

J. Tyler Franklin

The University of Louisville is in talks with the state for potential help in buying the flailing downtown Jewish Hospital and other affiliated Louisville health practices. A spokesman with the University confirmed information Tuesday that the Courier Journal first obtained in a draft document.

As the CJ reported, under the terms of the draft proposal, University of Louisville Hospital would buy Jewish Hospital for $10 million, and receive $40 million from Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital Foundation. The Kentucky Economic Development Authority is also considering loaning U of L Hospital $50 million (which would be “partially forgivable”) to support a sale.


This article was produced in partnership with nonprofit news organization MLK50, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

This year, a hospital housekeeper left her job just three hours into her shift and caught a bus to Shelby County General Sessions Court in Memphis, Tenn.

KentuckyOne Health

After more than two years of being up for sale, the future of Louisville’s Jewish Hospital is unclear. If the downtown hospital closes, it will leave countless patients looking for care elsewhere. But nearby facilities don’t necessarily have capacity, and they can’t begin to hire more staff to address the needs until a decision is made about Jewish.

In 2017, parent company Catholic Health Initiatives announced Jewish Hospital, the Frazier Rehab Institute, Sts. Mary’s and Elizabeth and Jewish Hospital Shelbyville were up for sale following financial troubles. University of Louisville Hospital explored finding a partner to buy the hospital with, but earlier this month  said the effort failed.

Creative Commons

Casey Ellis grew up just a few houses away from the Owen County Hospital in Owenton, Kentucky, so he knows the essential role a rural hospital plays in a small town. Ellis is Judge Executive of Owen County, a job his grandfather and great-grandfather had before him. So he also knows how hard it is for a rural community to keep a hospital.

“I have always seen it struggle,” Ellis said. “I grew up seeing it struggle.”

Over the years, he’s seen it operate as a for-profit hospital, a non-profit, and under a private owner. The community even established a foundation to support it.

If Kentucky implements new Medicaid rules this summer, hospitals could see their revenue drop by 20 percent.  That’s according to an analysis of hospital finances in states that have approved or pending Medicaid waiver applications. 

According to estimates, about 95,000 Kentuckians over five years could lose health coverage if the state implements Medicaid rules that would require most recipients to work, attend school, or volunteer as a condition of receiving benefits. 

Lisa Autry

Doctors aren’t the only ones on call at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown.  So is man’s best friend.

A part Labrador Retriever named Baron; Pepper the Yorkie; Lola, a Rhodesian Ridgeback; and Lady, a German Short-Haired Pointer, reported for duty at the hospital on a recent Friday afternoon, and fanned out to patient rooms to offer some canine comfort. Commons

A new public health awareness campaign is underway in Kentucky aimed at educating physicians and the public about the dangers of overprescribing antibiotics. 

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Kentucky has the highest rate of antibiotic use in the U.S. Bethany Wattles is with the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and is part of the new campaign called Kentucky Antibiotic Awareness (KAA).

Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital has been working with a third party since August of 2018 to create a dashboard with prices and market comparisons. The hospital is complying with a new federal law requiring hospitals across the country to post prices for stays, procedures, drugs, services and supplies.

“This is an opportunity for us to empower our consumers and patients, to understand more about pricing. And we want to be a very transparent and open organization,” said director of marketing and public relations Brian Hamby.

Lisa Gillespie

Cathy Rhoden-Goguen’s first experience with ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders came last year, two days after her father, Robert Rhoden, was admitted to Baptist Health Corbin with abdominal pain. Her phone rang at 5:24 a.m., and a nurse told her she needed to get to the hospital. Her father’s heart rate was dropping.

“So I ask her, ‘Has he been moved to ICU?’ And she said that he had a DNR, so they couldn’t move him to ICU,” Rhoden-Goguen said.

Thirteen minutes later, before she could get to the hospital, her father’s heart stopped and he died. He was 76 years old.

“There was no treatment and the basis for them refusing to treat him was the fact that he had signed a DNR,” Rhoden-Goguen said.

Flickr/Creative Commons

If you go to the hospital this year, there will likely be a small decrease in your bill from previous years.

That’s because hospitals in Kentucky saw the lowest rates of charity care in 2015 since before Medicaid expansion went into effect four years ago.

But it might not last.

Charity care refers to the services hospitals provide patients who can’t pay because they don’t have insurance. Hospitals get paid back for this partially by the state and federal government, but they pass the remaining cost on to insured people.

In 2015, Kentucky hospitals had $552 million in charity care costs, compared with $2.4 billion four years ago.

The findings on uncompensated care come from a new report from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky report out last week.

A big reason for the dip is likely from the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

Caverna Memorial

A Hart County hospital is being acquired by The Medical Center of Bowling Green.

At an announcement in Horse Cave Monday morning, the leadership of Caverna Memorial Hospital said it had agreed to the deal, which will be complete by the end of the year. Under the plan, Caverna Memorial will be known as The Medical Center at Caverna.

Caverna Memorial has been independently operated since 1967, and is a 25-bed, non-profit critical access hospital.

The Medical Center executive vice-president Wade Stone says the increasingly complex and expensive nature of health care is making it tough for rural hospitals to remain independently-operated.

“It’s making sense for hospitals like Caverna—small rural hospitals—to start looking for options in terms of partnering, or being part of an acquisition, to make sure they have the resources they need to survive long-term.”