Sources: State rebuffed UofL president’s request for help related to Jewish Hospital

Neeli Bendapudi | Courtesy of UofL

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi recently traveled to Frankfort to seek help from state officials with challenges related to the struggling Jewish Hospital but was rebuffed, sources have told Insider.

Two sources told Insider that Bendapudi asked for financial assistance as the university soon will lose tens of millions of dollars in support payments it is receiving from KentuckyOne Health, which owns Jewish Hospital. Three sources told Insider that a request for government relief was denied. The sources asked to remain anonymous, in part to avoid backlash.

University spokesman John Karman said he didn’t “have anything to provide as far as requests made in Frankfort,” though he did not refute that the meeting involving Bendapudi took place. The university president could not be reached.

Officials with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services did not reply to phone and email inquiries. Elizabeth Kuhn, a spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin, acknowledged receiving an emailed inquiry from Insider but did not answer the questions posed and did not reply to follow-up emails and phone calls. One of Kuhn’s colleagues also did not respond to Insider’s questions via phone and email.

Jewish Hospital, together with St. Mary’s Healthcare, has lost more than $1 million per week through the first three quarters of this year, and KOH has been in exclusive negotiations with New York-based alternative asset management firm BlueMountain Capital Management for nearly a year to sell the facilities and other Louisville properties.

As part of an academic affiliation agreement that was amended in February, KOH agreed to give UofL at least $35.6 million through Dec. 31 to pay for, among other items, 51 full-time resident positions at Jewish Hospital. However, that agreement is scheduled to end on Dec. 31, meaning the payments will stop.

Dan Durbin

A spokesman for KOH told Insider via email that the parties “remain in productive discussions … regarding the future of services at Jewish Hospital that are in partnership with UofL.”

UofL CFO Dan Durbin told Insider in an email Wednesday that the university “is committed to both the residents and their programs in the foreseeable future regardless. These programs remain core to our university mission.”

Just days after state officials reportedly rebuffed Bendapudi’s request, she publicly cited “the current uncertainty around Jewish Hospital” as the impetus for the university having “begun a process of transitioning service lines to University of Louisville Hospital and elsewhere.”

University spokesman Gary Mans previously told Insider via email that university officials for months have been developing contingency plans to move six service lines — cardiology, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, motility/gastroenterology, neurosurgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and solid organ transplants — out of Jewish Hospital in anticipation of the ending of the academic affiliation agreement.

While UofL officials have declined to answer Insider’s questions about how many people those service lines employ and how much space they occupy at the hospital, Dr. Peter Hasselbacher, emeritus professor of medicine at UofL and a local health care industry observer, said losing the university’s six clinical programs would be an enormous blow for Jewish Hospital.

Chuck Neumann

Sources have told Insider for months that the deal to save the hospital is in trouble and that at least some of the affected parties are preparing for the facility’s closure, though spokesmen for both KOH and BlueMountain Capital Management have told Insider that negotiations are continuing. KOH chief executive Chuck Neumann, who just announced his retirement, said that the health system’s officials have no plans to close the hospital.

Local health care experts have said that the closing of the hospital would have far-reaching consequences for many parts of the Louisville community because the 462-bed downtown facility employs thousands of highly skilled and highly paid health care professionals. It also takes care of tens of thousands of patients, many of them on Medicare and Medicaid.

Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer, declined to say whether any city officials accompanied Bendapudi on her trip to Frankfort but told Insider through email that “Jewish Hospital is an important piece of our community’s health care system, and we are concerned about its future.”

“We have been in communication with KentuckyOne Health, the University of Louisville and state officials, and will continue to be going forward,” Porter said.

The negotiations for KOH’s Louisville assets are coinciding with efforts by its parent company, Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, to merge with San Francisco-based Dignity Health. The marriage recently got a thumbs up from the Vatican.