COLUMBUS — Toledo’s last abortion clinic on Wednesday tried to make its case that the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor — more than 50 miles away — qualifies as a “local” hospital under a new state law.
Capital Care Network, which entered into an agreement with UMHS in January to provide emergency care in case of complications with its patients, filed a legal brief with a state hearing officer in its fight against a state order that it permanently close its doors.
The brief argues that the law requiring such an agreement is unconstitutionally vague because it doesn’t define what is meant by “local.” The clinic challenged the opinion of Dr. Ted Wymyslo, the former director of the Ohio Department of Health, that such a hospital should be within 30 minutes traveling time.
“Limiting the term ‘local’ to hospitals within 30 minutes of the Capital Care facility is not reasonable because there are no hospitals within the 30-minute transfer window radius that will give Capital Care a written transfer agreement,” the brief reads. “Capital Care owner Terrie Hubbard contacted every hospital within the Toledo metropolitan area.”
“For reasons unrelated to protecting the health and safety of Ohioans, all of these hospitals denied Capital Care a written transfer agreement,” Capital Care attorney Jennifer Branch wrote. “Many of the hospitals in the area are Catholic hospitals that are morally opposed to abortion. University of Toledo Hospital is prohibited from entering into a written transfer agreement with Capital Care because it is a public hospital. The rest of the hospitals are owned by the nonprofit ProMedica, which simply refused to enter an agreement with an abortion provider without giving a reason.”
Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich added language to the state budget last year requiring ambulatory surgical centers, such as abortion clinics, to have emergency-care agreements in place with local hospitals if problems arise that the clinic isn’t equipped to handle. The law also prohibits public hospitals from entering into such an agreement.
Even before the new law passed, the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, last year decided not to renew its one-year agreement with the clinic as of July 31, 2013. The clinic entered into an agreement with UMHS, but the Ann Arbor hospital specified that it would not transport patients the roughly 52 minutes from Toledo.
The clinic’s brief states that in life-threatening situations, the clinic will call 911 and have the patient sent to the nearest Toledo hospital.
“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,” it reads.
In nonlife-threatening situations, Ms. Hubbard testified before hearing officer William Klepko in March that she would contract with a helicopter service to transfer the patient to Ann Arbor.
In her prior brief, Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay Nash challenged the contention that the Ann Arbor hospital could be considered “local.”
Mr. Kepko is expected to make his recommendation in June. The final decision belongs to interim health director Lance Himes, who, as Dr. Wymyslo’s legal counsel, had advised him in his original decision to revoke the license.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.