Toledo's last abortion clinic fights for license

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TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- The only remaining abortion clinic in Toledo is fighting to keep operating, arguing that its deal with a Michigan health system fulfills an Ohio requirement that such a facility must have a patient-transfer agreement with a local hospital.

Capital Care Network is challenging its license revocation by the Ohio Department of Health, which concluded the clinic twice violated the law. A hearing officer appointed by the department heard testimony Wednesday in Columbus about Capital Care's recent arrangement with the University of Michigan Health System and will make a recommendation to the department's interim director, who has final say, The Blade newspaper in Toledo reported (http://bit.ly/NYebDB ).

Several abortion clinics have run into trouble with the transfer agreement issue since last summer, when a provision of the state budget made the requirement a law instead of a department rule and banned public hospitals from making such agreements.

Capital Care owner Terrie Hubbard told the hearing officer she had transfer agreements in place at the times of the alleged violations, the newspaper reported. Hubbard said the arrangement with the Ann Arbor hospital came about after a transfer agreement with a Columbus-based health care system fell through.

The state rejected the latter agreement with the University of Health System.

The state health director who recently stepped down, Dr. Ted Wymyslo, testified Wednesday that he turned down the agreement because of concerns about the proximity of the hospital and clinic -- more than 50 miles apart, in different states -- and about the idea of transporting patients suffering complications that far.

"I was concerned because of distance mostly but also felt that this did not constitute what I would consider a local resource," Wymyslo said, according to The Blade.

Hubbard said patients in true emergencies would be sent to a Toledo hospital regardless of the transfer agreement, under which patients with less urgent medical complications would be flown to the University of Michigan. The owner also said she hasn't made such a transfer in four years of owning the facility or the previous eight years when she worked there.

Abortion clinics are categorized as ambulatory surgical centers, and other Ohio facilities in that category have transfer agreements with hospitals in West Virginia and Kentucky that are considered to be local for communities along the state line.

It is expected to be months before the interim director receives the hearing officer's recommendation and makes a decision about Capital Care, which continues to operate in the meantime.

The other abortion clinic in Toledo lacked a transfer agreement and closed last summer.

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Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/