Judge allows hospitals to withdraw from Cincinnati consortium

CINCINNATI (AP) – A judge’s ruling will allow the breakup of the Cincinnati area’s largest health-care network.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Fred Nelson ruled Monday that Christ Hospital in Cincinnati and the St. Luke Hospitals in northern Kentucky may leave the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati.

Those hospitals, along with remaining Health Alliance members University, Jewish and Fort Hamilton hospitals, the Drake Center and the Alliance Primary Care doctors’ group, have about 12,500 employees.

The alliance has not decided whether to appeal the judge’s ruling, officials said.

“We are disappointed and disagree with the ruling,” said Gloria Haffer, chairwoman of the alliance’s board of directors. “The Health Alliance is a strong and successful organization that brings significant benefits to the community.”

The alliance was formed in the mid-1990s to cut costs by sharing some financial operations, but disputes developed over plans to expand into neighboring counties.

Trustees of Christ Hospital, which generates about 40 percent of the alliance’s revenue, voted in January 2006 to leave the system, and the alliance sued to stop them.

St. Luke trustees voted to leave in July 2006 and plan to merge with northern Kentucky’s St. Elizabeth Medical Center.