Friday, April 19, 2013

Illegal meetings held by Danville commission, court says; and by Murray regents, attorney general says

"Two rulings came this week — one in circuit court, one by the attorney general — that public agencies have violated the state’s open meetings law," David Thompson writes in his weekly missive as executive director of the Kentucky Press Association.

"In Boyle Circuit Court, a judge ruled Thursday that the Danville City Commission held an illegal session and in the much-publicized Murray State University situation, an AG’s ruling on Wednesday said the Board of Regents violated the law by discussing the MSU president’s situation the night before the board’s official meeting."

Thompson's post has a short story from Todd Kleffman of The Advocate-Messenger and draws from a story in The Paducah Sun distributed by The Associated Press. To read it, click here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

AG says UK should release records on pediatric heart surgery program, which is under review

Attorney General Jack Conway has ruled that the University of Kentucky hospital violated the state Open Records Act by refusing to give a reporter for the university-owned radio station records relating to the work of the chief of cardiothoracic surgery, who has stopped doing surgery on children. UK refused to let Conway's staff examine the records to evaluate UK's claimed need for confidentiality.

After inquiries by Brenna Angel of WUKY, "UK announced that the hospital had stopped performing pediatric cardiothoracic surgeries pending an internal review," John Cheves writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Angel reports that she sought records on Dr. Mark Plunkett, left, who was also director of the pediatric and congenital heart program: "the date of Plunkett’s last surgery, the mortality rate of pediatric heart surgery cases, and documentation related to the program’s review." She sought no patient-specific data.

UK denied her request, citing the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and arguing that release of the information could lead to the identification of one or more patients because Plunkett was doing so few surgeries on children. It also cited HIPAA in refusing to let Conway's staff review the records. Conway rejected that argument, noting that HIPAA does not supersede state laws and even make allowances for them.

Because it deals with the Open Records Act, Conway's decision has the force of law. UK can appeal the decision to circuit court within 30 days of March 27, the date of the decision. "UK spokesman Jay Blanton says officials are considering whether to file an appeal," Angel reports. The decision was publicly released Monday, the same day UK held a press conference about "the progress UK Healthcare has made in cardiology," she notes. "Yet the pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program remains under review, and patients from Central and Eastern Kentucky are being referred to hospitals out of state. Dr. Mark Plunkett remains on staff."

When Angel asked Dr. Michael Karpf, UK's executive vice president for health affairs, to comment, he replied, “We’ll have something to say about that in a little while.” Cheves notes, "UK recruited Plunkett, a noted surgeon at the University of California at Los Angeles, in 2007 to strengthen its pediatric heart program. He makes $700,000 a year, one of the highest salaries at UK." (Read more)

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