June 26, 2014 — Toledo's only abortion clinic is fighting a ruling by a state hearing officer that it does not have a valid hospital-transfer agreement and should close, the Toledo Blade reports.
The decision on whether to revoke Capital Care Network's license for failing to have such an agreement is before Ohio Department of Health Acting Director Lance Himes (Provance, Toledo Blade, 6/24). The only other clinic in Toledo closed last year after it could not obtain a transfer agreement.
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.
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.
However, earlier this month, 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/17).
In a filing released Tuesday by the health department, Capital Care Network attorney Jennifer Branch argued that the department's determination that a local hospital must be within 30 minutes of an abortion clinic is arbitrary and that the requirement to specify a patient transportation procedure was not consistent with most other state transfer agreements.
Branch also stated that, contrary to the hearing examiner's ruling, the department did have jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of the relevant state law.
If Himes orders the clinic to close, Capital Care Network is expected to challenge the decision in court, according to the Blade (Toledo Blade, 6/24).