ProMedica and Toledo’s last abortion clinic on Wednesday agreed to the terms of a patient emergency transfer agreement that the clinic hopes will keep its doors open.
Jennifer Branch, Cincinnati attorney for Capital Care Network, said she had a signed agreement in hand and had forwarded it to the Ohio Department of Health.
“The big news is we’ve entered into the written transfer agreement effective today, which we greatly appreciate,” she said.
Whether the department will cancel its pending order to revoke Capital Care’s operating license remains to be seen. The department did not respond to repeated requests for information Wednesday.
“We still have no comment on Capital Care,” spokesman Melanie Amato said in an email.
ProMedica spokesman Tedra White said Wednesday the health system had no additional comment on the agreement, referring back to a Monday statement after the board of trustees approved entering into such an agreement.
A written agreement “formally puts in writing an existing practice to provide emergency medical care to all who need it to our community,” Ms. White said in a statement issued after the board meeting.
The Ohio Supreme Court last week ruled 5-2 to uphold the department’s action, finding that it was on solid legal ground in revoking the license because the clinic, as an ambulatory surgical facility, did not have a valid written agreement in place with a local hospital.
The state health department had refused to accept the clinic’s prior arrangement with University of Michigan Health Center in Ann Arbor some 50 miles away. The hospital was not “local” as required by state law, it said. The clinic had also operated without such an agreement for several months prior to entering into the Ann Arbor agreement after the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital, opted not to renew its arrangement.
The court’s decision will take effect on Friday, although the clinic has the option of staying the revocation order by asking the court to reconsider its decision.
The agreement with ProMedica would last for one year and would automatically renew annually unless one of the parties gives 60 days advance notice that it plans to terminate. Those are similar terms as in the previous agreement between the clinic and UTMC.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ohio Right to Life had urged ProMedica to halt negotiations on the agreement until the clinic resolves the findings of a 2017 Ohio Department of Health inspection that resulted in a $40,000 fine, but that argument became moot when the agreement was signed.
“We've always advocated for transfer agreements, that's with the assumption that both parties are in good standing with the state of Ohio and in this case one is not,” said Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis on Wednesday before the news of the finalized agreement was announced.
The Diocese of Toledo and Greater Toledo Right to Life issued similar requests Wednesday.
The clinic was notified Aug. 21 that the department was imposing a fine based on violations it claimed to have discovered during an April inspection.
The report claimed, among other things, that the clinic had transferred a post-abortion patient suffering from complications to ProMedica Toledo Hospital’s emergency room. The clinic did not call 911, and the patient was driven by a patient advocate, an apparent violation of the clinic’s internal policies.
Ms. Branch said at the time that the inspectors had specifically requested this woman’s file. She said there were no complications, but the patient was transferred as a precaution when a follow-up ultrasound suggested she may have retained placenta and fetal tissue. The physician also noted “possible perforation of bowel in cavity.”
The patient was 11.5 weeks pregnant when the abortion was performed. The inspection report said the patient advocate did not stay with the patient, and the patient was not accompanied by proper medical records and discharge documentation. Ms. Branch said the patient was observed at the hospital, released, and then returned to the clinic several days later to assure it that she was fine.
An administrative hearing in which the clinic can challenge the April 11 inspection’s findings has yet to be held, but Ohio Right to Life pointed to the findings and the attached fine as reasons why ProMedica should not partner with the clinic.
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