COLUMBUS — A state hearing officer was wrong when he recommended closing Toledo’s last abortion clinic because it lacks a valid emergency-care agreement with a local hospital, the clinic argued in a legal filing released Tuesday.
Capital Care Network, which remains open, urged Lance Himes, interim director of the Ohio Department of Health, to reject hearing examiner William Kepko’s recommendation and not revoke the clinic’s license. A decision could come at any time.
The clinic’s Cincinnati attorney, Jennifer Branch, argued that the former director, Dr. Ted Wymyslo, arbitrarily determined that a “local” hospital must be within 30 minutes of traveling time when he rejected a transfer agreement the clinic entered into with the University of Michigan Health System.
The state budget passed last year wrote into law a prior administrative rule requiring ambulatory surgical facilities such as abortion clinics to have agreements in place with hospitals for the transfer of patients if complications arise.
Lawmakers then went further by requiring that hospital to be local, without defining that word, and prohibiting public hospitals from entering into agreements.
The University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, had already notified Capital Care it would not renew its transfer agreement that expired July 31, 2013, and under the new law would not be permitted to enter into such an agreement today.
Terrie Hubbard, the clinic’s owner, struggled to find a hospital willing to take UTMC’s place before inking an agreement with the Ann Arbor hospital more than 50 miles away.
She testified before Mr. Kepko in March that she would arrange for a helicopter that could transfer a patient experiencing life-threatening complications within 15 to 20 minutes.
“... in the rare event that a patient experiences a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate medical attention, Capital Care’s procedure is to call 911 and allow EMTs to transfer the patient via ambulance to the nearest hospital of the EMT’s choice,” Ms. Branch wrote. “There is no risk that the patient will not be treated at the hospital because federal law requires the hospital to accept and treat every emergency patient until they are stabilized before sending the patient to another hospital.”
Mr. Kepko had determined that Dr. Wymyslo’s 30-minute rule was reasonable and that the UMHS wasn’t “local.”
He deemed Ms. Hubbard’s helicopter transfer plan unreliable as he advised the interim director that the original order to close the facility was appropriate.
Mr. Himes, former department legal counsel, advised Dr. Wymyslo before the prior order to close the facility was issued last year. Should a new closure order be issued, the issue, as well as the question of the law’s constitutionality, is expected to end up in court.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.