U of L Fires Shot in Brain Surgeon Controversy

A law firm representing the University of Louisville in its ongoing dispute with the eight neurosurgeons who joined the Norton Neurological Institute sent a letter to Norton lawyers yesterday alleging that Dr. Christopher Shields and his team may have broken the law by negotiating their deal with Norton.

They’re demanding that the surgeons negotiate a new deal to extend the surgeons’ service to U of L while the school works to recruit replacements.

Apparently it’s much more time-consuming to recruit high-paid surgeons than basketball coaches.

The letter, from Boehl, Stopher and Graves attorneys Edward Stopher and Kent Wicker, claims that the May 12 date the surgeons agreed to continue their work at U of L was insufficient time to recruit replacements, because it “may take months, not weeks, to recruit and hire these new physicians.”

The five-page letter addresses Shields’ involvement with Norton, claiming that Shields broke state laws by negotiating with Norton. From the letter:

By secretly assisting in the organization and development of the Norton Neuroscience Institute for Norton Health Care and soliciting other members of his practice group to join the effort, he may very well have breached his fiduciary duty.

The letter charges that Norton interfered with the contractual relationship between the doctors and U of L, saying the surgeons collectively agreed to work more closely with U of L in 2008 in exchange for $1 million per year through 2010. But it claims that six months after signing the deal, the surgeons signed their deal for full-time employment with Norton.

If the surgeons don’t agree to continue their work at U of L beyond May 12, U of L officials fear it could put the school is “serious jeopardy” and result in trauma patients being diverted to hospitals in other states.

Today’s Drinkin’ and Smokin’ News

More Green for Green Projects: Today the Dept. of Energy announced that $25.3 million in federal funding is coming to Kentucky to help create jobs, save energy and conduct energy efficiency audits. Veep Joe Biden said it would be up to local leaders to be accountable for investing the money wisely. Uh oh. Check the link for a list of where the money’s going in Kentucky. [Page One]

Beating the Tax: It’s time to stock up on alcohol. The new 6% sales tax goes into effect on April 1, so, you know, get to the liquor store this weekend.

Finding Pregnant Smokers: The state is touting its success in getting pregnant women in eastern Kentucky to stop smoking. The program found more than 1,000 pregnant women in nine counties who puff away with child. Of those who enroll in the program, one in four have quit. [Cabinet for Health and Family Services]

Nothing Doing: The state House adjourned without considering legislation to provide economic development incentives to attract a NASCAR race or to create a tolling authority.  House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he decided to play by the rules this time. [Courier]

Out of Work: Kentucky’s unemployment rate hit 9 percent, the highest in two decades. Ouch. [AP]

Soon to Be Out of Work: No one has less job security than Kentucky basketball coach Billy Clyde Gillispie. It’s really difficult to find anyone who supports him. As C.D. Kaplan writes, Billy will get his walking papers tomorrow.  C.D.’s got all the rumors, of course, since he’s with the Cards in Indy. [Score]

No Drinking Zone: It’s illegal to be drinking in the state Capitol building, but that hasn’t stopped legislators from holding alcohol-fueled parties there. Jake is naming names and says one elected rep has a stash in his office. Time to start searching credenzas. [Page One]

More Water Cooler Material for Monday

Eight Men Out: The latest salvo in the dispute between the University of Louisville and its renegade brain surgeons was fired Sunday by brain doc Chris Shields, who sent a letter the the C-J signed by his team of eight. Their point seems to be that they should be able to continue as U of L faculty while helping to build Norton’s new neuroscience institute. They say there were fired, U of L says they resigned. [Courier]

Newspaper Going South?: At the Gannett-owned Tennessean in Nashville, top editor Mark Silverman wrote an editorial saying things aren’t so bad in the newspaper business, that the paper’s making a profit and reaching a large audience. This was met with skepticism by critical readers.  [Tennessean]

Thanks for West Virginia: A Gallup poll released last week revealed that Kentuckians, as a whole, rank second-t0-last among states in well-being. It measures physical and emotional health, access to basic necessities and healthy behaviors. We’re dead last in that one, thanks to place like Metcalfe County, profiled in the Sunday C-J, where almost half of adults smoke. [Courier]

Where’s Jerry?: Today Mayor Abramson is in Washington with 10 other mayors talking with U.S. Transportation secretary Roy LaHood. He’s pushing for more bridge money, saying approval of funding could create 56,000 new jobs. [press release]

Media Malpractice?: Former radio host John Ziegler, in his new career attacking mainstream media, is now taking credit for exposing Gov. Paul Patton’s peccadillos and getting him out of office. Which isn’t true. The guy who really broke the story weighs in. [WHAS-TV]

Finally, Some Spring-like News

There is news outside of basketball, like this…

“Gloomy Jerry Abramson”: In his story about the soaring jobless rate, the C-J’s Joe Gerth used an adjective rarely used in connection with our upbeat chief. The news is gloomy — about 1 in 10 people can’t find a job. Don’t forget that Francene’s doing her radio want ads at 10 today. [Courier]

A Pro-Wine Sales Argument from a New York Wine Store Owner: In New York, politicians are dealing with the issue of whether or not to allow wine sales in grocery stores, just like our legislators up in Frankfort. Just 15 states don’t allow it, and nothing is changing here for the foreseeable future. This Op-Ed from the New York Times is from a wine store owner who sees opportunity where others find fear. [NY Times]

The Foreclosure Fight: The Mayor, John Yarmuth and HUD officials are announcing a plan to help people avoid foreclosure today. The press conference is in Shelby Park.  [news release]

Sustain Saturday: It will be good for you, and the environment, to stop in at the new Sustain store in St. Matthews on Saturday. We’re thinking of making the screening of the documentary “Flow” during Happy Hour at 4, followed by some great jazz. [Page One]

Speakeasy Supper Surprise: The promise is great food, great wine and a surprise location. That’s intriguing enough for us to get interested in the Supper Speakeasy on Monday, produced by Bon Vivant Savant. The location isn’t disclosed until Saturday. The chefs are the husband/wife team of the Seelbach’s Ethan Ray and Sarah McGregor Ray. See the website for details. [Courier]

Dog Watching: Looks like the Metro Council is going to be talking about dogs again. Kelly Downard told WAVE-TV that he’s been getting complaints about the way the long-debated dog ordinance is being enforced, and the station found a woman whose home was raided by animal control officers while she was out.  [WAVE-TV]

Static/Major Update: LEO’s Phillip Bailey got some quotes from the doctor targeted by the rap star’s family in a malpractice suit, who says of course he did nothing wrong. Baptist Hospital East still isn’t giving up Stephen Garrett’s roommate in the hospital, either. [LEO]

Brain Surgeons Fired?: U of L now says it’s worried about losing its accreditation as a Level One trauma center. The top brain surgeon in town says U of L fired him. Kind of unusual to see these really smart docs (U of L’ s Edward Halperin and Dr. Chris Shields) bickering in the media, but no one’s come up with a solution. Shields and his group of surgeons want to stay on as U of L faculty while opening a new center at Norton HealthCare. Let’s just say there are egos involved. [Fox41]

It’s the first day of spring, and here’s your excuse to get outside at lunch — The WFPK Spring Membership Drive Kick-off at Ear x-tacy, featuring Rachel Yamagata and yes, Steve Forbert. See you there.

More to Life Than Basketball Edition

Time to quit filling out those brackets and get to work…

Forde Takes the Cards: If you really want to be in-the-know about all this NCAA Tournament buzz – read Pat Forde’s column at ESPN. If you can’t wait until the end of the piece to know who he picks — we just told you. They play Friday at 7:10 in Dayton, and could face Morehead State. Western takes on Illinois in Portland, Ore. in a late game Thursday.

It is All About the Money: Remember last year when Louisville, Indiana and Kentucky were all in the NCAA and playing all over the map. Local TV stations scrambled to send crews to every locale featuring a local team. No one’s happier than the GMs that the only team they have to follow is U of L, and they’re not likely to travel far.  Oh, the Cats do have a home game Tuesday against UNLV.

Seven Weeks: Actually, less than 7 weeks til Derby Day. The new favorite is Friesan Fire, winner of Saturday’s Louisiana Derby.

Gannett Closes a Paper: After 138 years in business, the Tucson Citizen is no more. Gannett will shut down the afternoon paper on Saturday. [Death of Newspapers]

Weeding Out Realtors: The big Sunday story in the C-J was about how 500 realtors have given up the business because of the economic downturn, i.e. nobody’s buying houses. Semonin’s Brad DeVries said some firms will likely go out of business this year. [Courier]

National Attention for Radio Want Ads: Producers at CNN heard about this Radio Want Ads business that Francene cooked up at WHAS, and sent a reporter to do a story on it. [CNN]

The End May Not Be Near, But It’s Coming: That interview with Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on 60 Minutes last night was good TV. It was also funny that during  a new break in the show there was an item about AIG paying bonuses to employees. [CBS]

Mum on Humana: No one in the big structure on Main Street is talking, but rumors about a possible takeover of Humana boosted the stock price Friday.  Industry analysts are all over the rumor. [Bloomberg]

Stimulating News: This morning, Jerry Abramson will announce that money for new walking paths, bike lanes and sidewalks is in the federal stimulus plan.  He’s making the announcement at California Park on W. St. Catherine. [Press Release]

All Silver Linings in State of the City

If you follow city government or have heard any of this Mayor’s previous 19 State of the City addresses, this is not going to surprise you.

Jerry Abramson expressed great optimism, talked of the great opportunity we have, and even came up with a Winston Churchill quote about optimism. He delivered the speech at the downtown Rotary meeting today, two months late due to the January ice storm.

Of the economic outlook, the Mayor sees light at the end off the tunnel. And the start of the flow of stimulus money gave an unneeded boost of energy to the Mayor’s tone. He mentioned plenty of specifics, so we decided to go ahead and give you the complete prepared text of the speech.

Check the Mayor’s Speech after the Jump…

Read moreAll Silver Linings in State of the City

Yarmuth Celebrates Obama’s Stem Cell Call

If there were ever an issue that riled up those opposed to George W. Bush’s presidency, it would have to be his opposition to stem cell research. Or maybe Iraq. But, no, Bush’s restrictions on stem cell research brought out a wide coalition of opposition, especially those with diseases that might be helped by the research.

Today President Obama signed an executive order reversing Bush’s ban, calling for a significant increase in federal dollars going toward stem cell research. He said the issue would no longer be part of the political agenda.

Congressman John Yarmuth has worked to lift the ban, and released a statement today:

“Today, President Obama has empowered American scientists, including those conducting important stem cell research at UofL, to once again take the lead on some of the most promising avenues for medical discovery. This decision could one day unlock the mysteries of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes and many other debilitating conditions, while eliminating suffering and saving the lives of millions of people. I was proud to have cosponsored legislation lifting this ban in the last Congress, and I commend President Obama for taking this critical step that at last begins to base federal policy on sound scientific evidence.”

Hospital Brings LEO Into Rapper’s Case

Can you remember who was in the next bed last time you visited someone in the hospital? Neither can the family of the late Grammy Award-winning hip-hop star Static/Major.

LEO did a Feb. 25 cover story on the artist (real name: Stephen Garrett) who died at age 33 at Baptist Hospital East.  The family is suing the hospital, and wants to talk with the person who was in the next bed while Garrett was being treated.

But lawyers for the hospital aren’t giving up the name, citing HIPAA privacy laws. The plaintiffs say they aren’t interested in the roommate’s medical record; they just want to find him and see what he knows about Garrett’s care. They’ve asked Jefferson District Judge Charles Cunninghan to force the hospital to release the roomie’s identity.

But the hospital counters with an argument that brings LEO into the case. From LEO’s update this week:

In recently filed court documents, the hospital’s counsel also cites LEO Weekly’s recent cover story about Static/Major, which includes details about the lawsuit, as one of the reasons to keep the patient’s information private: “If this patient becomes a witness to this suit, he will be subjected to similar to scrutiny, and potential embarrassment.”

The roommate may have witnessed Garrett’s treatment, so the family believes his testimony would help its case. Baptist East, obviously, doesn’t want to give up the roommate.

Norton Winning Battle Over Brain Surgeons

Let’s review, shall we, this high stakes war between Norton HealthCare and the University of Louisville.

On Feb. 19, Norton announced the formation of its new Neuroscience Institute, citing a need to recruit and attract more brain surgeons and vowing to spend $100 million. CEO Stephen Williams said it would also help the academic program at U of L, which has a complex relationship with doctors who work at both places.

It’s not like there’s a lot of brain surgeons on the market, so it makes sense that Norton wants to bring in every one it can for its new initiative, even if it ticks off U of L.

Days later, a C-J editorial acknowledged that U of L president James Ramsey was not pleased with the deal, and the paper backed Norton’s initiative.  It said Ramsey wanted to control its docs and make more money for the hospital. U of L responded Friday with an OpEd from medical school dean Edward Halperin, who wrote that the brain surgeons involved wouldn’t be controlled by U of L and that the result would be bad for the community.

Halperin took issue with the C-J’s editorial, saying it included untruths and speculation.  Then on Saturday, the C-J reported that the two sides had reached a temporary agreement, through March 31, that in no way was a permanent solution. Top brain man Dr. Christopher Shields was quoted saying the agreement doesn’t address the “bigger-picture problem.”

Sources tell the V.V. that there’s a lot more to the story, including a rift between Norton’s Williams and U of L’s Larry Cook, chancellor of the Health Sciences campus. Williams and Cook have been close in the past, but split over U of L’s efforts to dissolve a partnership with Norton. In the downtown medical community, it’s well-known that Williams barely speaks to Cook.

Read the Rest After the Jump…

Read moreNorton Winning Battle Over Brain Surgeons