NRL News

Decision to revoke Toledo abortion clinic’s license valid, hearing examiner rules

by | Jun 19, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Capital Care Network

Capital Care Network

When last we wrote about the Capital Care Network, the lone remaining abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, had informed state authorities it had fulfilled the requirement to have access to a “local” hospital— the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor located more than 50 miles away and in a different state.

On Monday, state authorities released a decision written by William J. Kepko, an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner, in which Kepko ruled the state’s decision to revoke the clinic’s license as an ambulatory surgical center was valid.

All ambulatory surgical centers, not just abortion clinics, are required under state law to have agreements with hospitals to transfer patients should complications arise.

The decision upheld two decisions by former Health Director Ted Wymyslo. The final word rests with Lance D. Himes, the department’s acting director. Himes served as legal counsel to Dr. Wymyslo, when he issued his original license revocation order last August, The Toledo Blade reported.

“Capital Care’s written transfer agreement with the University of Michigan on behalf of the University of Michigan Health System, located in the state of Michigan, 52 miles from Capital Care, is not a local hospital as required by [state law],” Mr. Kepko wrote. “The use of the 30-minute availability rule by the Director of the Ohio Department of Health when evaluating Capital Care’s transfer agreement with UMHS is reasonable and consistent with [state law], requiring the transfer agreement to be with a local hospital.”

Michael Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, told the Blade, “We applaud the hearing examiner’s decision, which puts women’s health and patient safety ahead of politics.” He added, “No state regulator or reasonable person would permit an out-of-state hospital to contract with an Ohio abortion clinic to provide backup services. It’s absurd that this abortion clinic would even make such a request. Sadly, it appears that the clinic will put profits ahead of patient safety and attempt to delay and stall through litigation.”

The Columbia Dispatch’s Darrel Rowland also noted that beyond flunking the “local” hospital requirement, Kepko found that Capital Care Network had failed in a second way. The pact with the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor is illegal under Ohio law “because it does not specify an appropriate procedure for the safe and immediate transfer of patients from the facility to a local hospital when medical care, beyond the care that can be provided at the ambulatory-care facility, is necessary, including when emergency situations occur or medical complications arise.”

Asked for her response, Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, called the health department’s action part of a “regulatory witch hunt.”

“This ruling is no surprise, given that (Gov. John) Kasich wrote these regulations to close abortion clinics,” she told Rowland. “Transfer agreements have nothing to do with patient safety.”

Jennifer Branch, the clinic’s attorney, “has already indicated an appeal would be filed should Mr. Himes agree with the recommendation and again issue an order revoking Capital Care’s operating license,” according to Jim Provance of The Blade.

The Center for Choice, Toledo’s other abortion clinic, “closed its doors last year because it could not come up with a valid transfer agreement after operating without one for more than three years,” Rowland reported.

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Categories: Abortion Clinic