Battle over hospital merger documents heads to court



Posted on December 5, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 5 at 7:09 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)— The battle over whether the public will get to see documents related to the University of Louisville Hospital's proposed merger headed to court Monday.

There are already ongoing lawsuits over the release of merger-related documents involving the Jefferson County Attorney's Office, WHAS11 News, The Courier-Journal and the American Civil Liberties Union.

But on Monday, Jefferson County Attorney Mike  O'Connell went to court against the University of Louisville itself and its President James Ramsey demanding documents.

O’Connell says he hopes that the public can see exactly what's at stake before the merger is a done deal.

“Nobody has seen anything in this case that I'm aware of, of substance,” O’Connell argued before Circuit Judge Irv Maze Monday afternoon.

O'Connell says the public is being kept in the dark about the deal's real costs to taxpayers and the community.

“They have stiff-armed the citizens of this community day, after day after day,” said O’Connell.

A Catholic Health Initiative financial document WHAS11 obtained shows the merger would transfer $400 million in Jewish Hospital Saint Mary’s Healthcare debt to University Medical Center-- with CHI only loaning UMC $46 million to pay off a portion of that debt.

O'Connell believes there are other unknowns in the deal, such as what would happen if the University of Louisville ever tries to walk away from it.

“Nobody knows anything about this,” said O’Connell. “It could be hundreds of millions of dollars.”

University of Louisville’s  attorney argued today why the documents shouldn't be made public.

“There were a whole litany of documents that were withheld because the statute provides that preliminary documents are not subject to the Open Records Act,” said William Hollander, who was hired by U of L Friday to represent the university in the lawsuit.

“I think those documents can be brought to me within seven days. Get them, bring them into my office. I'll lock them up,” ruled Judge Maze at Monday’s hearing.

Another hearing will be held on Dec. 21, in which Judge Maze will decide whether to release those documents.

O'Connell says he hopes the merger isn't a done deal by then.

University officials previously said they had hoped to have the deal finalized by the end of the calendar year.