TOLEDO, OH, May 1, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The state of Ohio has taken steps to assure the closure of Toledo’s last remaining abortion clinic, arguing that a last-minute deal the facility cut with the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor to provide transfer care does not meet the standard set by a state law requiring transfer agreements with “local” hospitals.
The state first ordered the Capital Care Network (CCN) abortion center closed in August after its transfer agreement with the University of Toledo Hospital expired and the hospital opted not to renew.
Since no other hospitals in the area would agree to sign a contract with CCN, the facility’s owners were informed that they were in violation of state law and would have to shut down operations. But the facility refused to comply, arguing that they were still in pursuit of a transfer arrangement.
In January, CCN managed to strike a transfer deal with the UM Hospital in Ann Arbor – more than 50 miles away and across state boundaries.
Because of the distance between the abortion facility and Ann Arbor, Ohio state officials argue that UM Hospital doesn’t qualify as local, and that women suffering life-threatening complications at the facility would have to wait far too long for help to arrive.
In a brief filed Wednesday with hearing examiner William Kepko, Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay Nash wrote: “At the hearing, CCN’s operator testified that it would take CCN’s transportation provider approximately an hour to show up at CCN even to begin to transport a patient to this far removed hospital and that the actual transport itself would take another 15 to 20 minutes, if possible, to effect by helicopter.”
“Such a lengthy delay would frustrate the purposes of having a transfer agreement with a local hospital, which is to provide immediate care to an [ambulatory surgical facility] patient in the case of emergencies and medical complications that require treatment beyond what the ASF can provide,” she wrote.
“If CCN was unclear what the word 'local' meant, it could have consulted a dictionary,” Nash added.
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At a previous hearing, then-state health director Dr. Ted Wymyslo also testified before Kepko that the distance between CCN and Ann Arbor is too far.
“My first concern was even before I saw this agreement, and that was the understanding that a hospital that was about 53 miles away from the emergency ambulatory surgical facility was going to be providing services,” Wymyslo said. “In addition, it was out of state…I was concerned because of distance mostly but also felt that this did not constitute what I would consider a local resource.”
Abortion clinic owner Terrie Hubbard has said that in a true emergency, she would simply call 911 and have a dying patient taken directly to the nearest emergency room regardless of the transfer agreement with UM Hospital. She says that she would only use the transfer agreement in non-life-threatening situations.
But Nash said that defeats the entire purpose of a transfer agreement, which is designed to ensure continuity and quality of care for women who suffer complications during abortions.
In her brief, the assistant AG called CCN’s agreement with UM Hospital “illusory,” and said she believes Hubbard has no intention of actually sending any patients there.
“Ms. Hubbard’s testimony indicates that the agreement was submitted to [the Ohio Department of Health] merely to try to satisfy the legal requirement that CCN have a transfer agreement,” Nash wrote. “CCN does not intend to use the agreement, undoubtedly because it realizes that calling a helicopter from Licking County, Ohio, to pick up a patient in Toledo, Ohio, and transfer her over 50 miles to Ann Arbor, Michigan, is not a reasonable or responsible plan to care for patients needing emergency hospital care.”
Nash urged Kepko to uphold the spirit of the transfer agreement law by ruling the UM Hospital agreement inadequate, and revoking CCN’s license.
Kepko is expected to make a final ruling on the case in June.