by Max Brantley
Joann Coleman, a civic activist who's been closely following the proposed UAMS-St. Vincent medical services merger, has unearthed yet another interesting document from her series of FOI inquiries. She detected from remarks by Chancellor Dan Rahn at UAMS that there were further documents indicating St. Vincent bargaining positions. She requested them. The UAMS lawyer said they didn't exist. She persisted.
Wednesday, she got a response from University of Arkansas counsel Fred Harrison, Oops. Harrison said the UAMS lawyer didn't know about a proposed agreement drafted by St. Vincent's corporate attorney and sent to UAMS' private counsel (not, as the original post said, to Chancellor Rahn himself, according to a spokesman for UAMS).
It was written in May. It details some of the ways St. Vincent hopes to make a pot of money in fees from managing merged operations with UAMS (and also receive enhanced reimbursements under Medicare for treating patients as part of a teaching hospital.) UAMS has rejected the concept, though St. Vincent seems to still think highly of it based on reporting in the Democrat-Gazette.
For now, here's what St. Vincent proposed in a first draft of a letter of intent on the combination. It's a small point, but I note with disapproval that it essentially calls for UAMS to agree to violate the state Freedom of Information Act by preventing UAMS from "unilaterally" releasing information about the agreement without first consulting St. Vincent and making a joint response.
It goes without saying that the stated objective in the draft of reducing costs means somebody will lose their job.
And remember when everybody disavowed the statement ascribed to St. Vincent doc Dean Kumpuris that something akin to a merger of the hospitals was the plan?
The Parties share a special and common commitment to patient care, biomedical research and the education of the next generation of healthcare providers. To that end, while the initial affiliation of SVHS and UAMS will consist of CHI providing certain shared services to UAMS, the Parties intend to fully integrate SVHS’s and UAMS’s facilities and services into a single network entity (the “Network Entity”).
Again the questions: Will a fully integrated medical institution managed by St. Vincent — and presumably guided by church dictates — provide all the services provided by the public institution? Will the employees of that merged, publicly supported institution be provided the same health care benefits and protection from discrimination that the public institution is mandated to provide?
Re fees: The proposal says this about what St. Vincent (or its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives), would get for letting UAMS students practice at the merged institution it manages:
In exchange for CHI providing the Shared Services to UAMS, UAMS will pay CHI fees in an amount to be mutually agreed upon by the Parties, including, Without limitation, a management fee that will take into account the revenue enhancement, cost savings, and capital savings that UAMS Will derive from CHI providing the Shared Services to UAMS.