Officials of the organizations announced June 14 that their boards have formally approved partnership plans. The partnership agreement still must receive regulatory and church approvals before becoming effective. That process could take 12 months. Until they have received regulatory approvals, the partners will continue to operate as separate organizations.

The new health care system will include hospitals, clinics, specialty institutions, home health agencies and satellite primary care centers; and it will bring together more than 3,000 academic and community physicians.

“We’re excited about this merger,” said UofL President James Ramsey, noting that it is an embodiment of the 1997 Kentucky higher education reform act that called on the university to expand and grow its research and academic missions.

The University of Louisville, Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services, and Catholic Health Initiatives, a national nonprofit health organization based in Denver, Colo., are sponsors of the new health system. Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare was formed in 2005 through a joint venture between Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services and Catholic Health Initiatives. Saint Joseph Health System also is part of Catholic Health Initiatives.

“There is so much more we can accomplish together,” said Bob Hewett, a long-time board member of the Saint Joseph Health System and its predecessor who will be the first chair of the system’s community board of trustees.

“Most important,” Hewett said, “we will be increasing access to basic and advanced health services. That will lead to improving the health not only of individual patients, but of entire communities.”

Plans include

  • building on each partner’s heritage and integrating medical research, education, technology and health care services wherever patients receive care.
  • collaborating with all health care providers, enhancing existing relationships and developing new partnerships.
  • expanding the academic medical center in Louisville to include the University of Louisville Hospital, James Graham Brown Cancer Center, Jewish Hospital and Frazier Rehab Institute
  • extending UofL’s research and teaching programs statewide through an academic affiliation agreement with UofL’s School of Medicine
  • using technology — especially telemedicine — to allow network physicians to expand access to specialty care that has not been available to many Kentucky communities. For example, Saint Joseph hospitals and the University of Louisville Hospital now use telemedicine robots to provide stroke, neurology and other specialty care in partnership with other facilities.

Plans are for Catholic Health Initiatives to make an incremental capital infusion of $320 million to support the system’s mission and health care services statewide. The new system also will invest $200 million in capital to expand the academic medical center in Louisville and $100 million in statewide health care services.

“We see a healthier future for the commonwealth by combining our efforts to address the serious health challenges faced by the people of Kentucky,” Hewett said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association, Kentucky ranks among the 10 states with the worst health indicators in the nation for cancer, obesity and death due to heart disease and stroke. More than half of the state is designated as medically underserved and there is a growing scarcity of physicians across Kentucky.