June 17, 2014 — Toledo's only abortion clinic appears to have few options to stay open after an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner rejected its proposed hospital-transfer agreement, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
The decision on whether to revoke Capital Care Network's license for failing to have such an agreement now goes to Ohio Department of Health Acting Director Lance Himes. The only other clinic in Toledo closed last year after it could not obtain a transfer agreement (Rowland, Columbus Dispatch, 6/17).
Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in the case of emergencies. In September, provisions in the state budget took effect that require abortion clinics to secure the transfer agreements with private hospitals and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals, among other restrictions.
After the University of Toledo Medical Center opted not to renew its agreement with Capital Care Network, the Ohio Department of Health revoked the clinic's license and ordered it to close unless it could secure another agreement. The clinic in January secured a hospital-transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, which is about 53 miles from the clinic, after no other private hospital in the region was willing to form an agreement (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/1).
On Monday, hearing examiner William Kepko ruled that the pact did not meet the legal requirement for a "local" hospital and did "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."
Kepko's decision upheld two previous rulings by the state health department's former director.
Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio called the ruling part of a "regulatory witch hunt." She added, "Transfer agreements have nothing to do with patient safety. The real threat to women's health will come if [Gov. John] Kasich [R] succeeds in closing the last abortion clinic in Toledo" (Columbus Dispatch, 6/17).