By Dr. Peter Hasselbacher, Kentucky Health Policy Institute
It is hard to give an update for process that is secret, but the very fact of the secrecy is the whole point.
Late last month, the University of Louisville review committee for submissions to its Request for Proposal for a new medical center partner was supposed to have been held.
Perhaps it even was. Claiming a magic invisibility cloak granted by the Commonwealth, very little information related to the RFP has been made available, and none promised until a deal with the preferred partner is finalized and signed.
The lesson U of L executives chose not to learn following their failed merger debacle last fall (and several scandals) is that secrecy, changing stories, and lack of accountability are not the way to gain the trust of the community. If anything, University leadership has chosen now to double down on their bet that secrecy will win the day. That would be sad. Are these the lessons we want taught to our children?
I reported earlier the University would not reveal how many submissions it received in response to its RFP.
In justification, I was sent Kentucky’s regulation on Competitive Negotiations and a confidentiality statement the RFP evaluation committee members are required to sign. I then asked for the names of the members of the committee and copies of the conflict of interest statements that are also required by U of L.
To my reading, responding to these latter requests is not prohibited by Kentucky law. The university has not responded at all. In my opinion the university has simply chosen of its own accord not to make public the committee membership.
What good are statements of conflict of interest that are not open and verifiable? What do you think about all of this?
I have been afraid that this serious issue would arise ever since I discovered senior U of L officials attended a meeting in New York with officials of Jewish Hospital to discuss mergers of hospitals and the structuring and finance of healthcare systems.
Given the university had already issued its RFP covering exactly such matters, I thought such discussion was improper, especially since considerable obstacles of time and information were being imposed on other potential partners.
For example, I would guess U of L President James Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz would want be involved in the decision of who a new partner will be. (They certainly seem to have been out in front of the show so far.)
Would they or any other U of L official or faculty who had also attended the New York meeting (or any similar meeting) be able to sign the required “Evaluation Procedure & Confidentiality Statement” which specifically makes reference to the interval between the issuance of the RFP and receipt of proposals by the Department of Purchasing?
Would the University dismiss an offending committee member as promised by its own document? Would failure to do so be hypocritical? Should not submitting organizations have a right to know who is evaluating their proposals? Why else bother with conflict of interest statements? Should such individuals be involved in subsequent negotiations? Has the University already invalidated its own RFP process?
I have already voiced my opinion about the conduct of this search. In my view it just keeps getting less defensible all the time. This is not the way to serve the Louisville community.
Does anyone else think differently?
About Dr. Peter Hasselbacher: Peter Hasselbacher MD is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville. He has been a medical educator, clinician, scientist, and healthcare executive for 35 years. He is currently president of KHPI.