Catholic Hospital Policies and a Fatally Flawed Report

A few days ago, hospitals around WA State were required to submit their reproductive, end-of-life, charity care, nondiscrimination, and access policies to the Department of Health.  You can find them here.

Today, Modern Health Care posted an article about the situation, saying that more than half the hospitals did not meet the regulatory deadline.  You can find that article here.

Also included in the article is a reference to a DRAFT report from the Office of Financial Management (OFM).  That draft relied on an outdated, very limited limited data set (focused on tubal ligations) and drew much broader conclusions about whether services were being curtailed.  Meanwhile Catholic systems continued their aggressive Embrace and Extinguish strategy of taking over secular systems and then cutting off services.

When Providence took over Swedish, it eliminated “elective” abortion services which included abortion services for high-risk pregnancies.  (The types of circumstances where a severe fetal anomaly might not be detectable earlier or where a fetus might run into severe trouble late in the pregnancy.)  Abortions where there’s a fetal heartbeat now have to be done off-site.  Swedish, a secular facility for more than a hundred years was THE place to go in Seattle for high risk pregnancies where termination might be medically appropriate/necessary.  Someone I know ran into these restriction and her story was recounted in an article for Seattle’s The Stranger in February of 2013.  Swedish is the largest hospital system in the Seattle area.

When Franciscan took over Highline (a network of hospitals/medical centers), it implemented the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care which forbid contraception, abortion, access to Death with Dignity, etc.

When Franciscan took over Harrison in Bremerton, it implemented the ERDs.

When PeaceHealth opened a new hospital/medical facility on San Juan Island (which was touted as an upgrade for an aging medical center), it eliminated access to abortion services, subsidized access to maternity services, and any physician participation in Death with Dignity.  The PeaceHealth facility on San Juan Island gets a direct tax subsidy.

PeaceHealth is now in the later stages of implementing partnership agreements with Cascade Valley and Skagit Valley Hospitals, two public hospitals.

In Bellingham, WA, the Catholic bishop asked PeaceHealth to cut off lab services to Planned Parenthood patients; only an outcry from the community kept this from happening.  PeaceHealth St. Joe’s in Bellingham gets a special tax break from the city BECAUSE it is a religious entity.

Many of the public hospitals that these Catholic systems are “affiliating with” are restricting services.  For example, PeaceHealth is set to take over running United General, a public hospital.  The policies they’ve just posted with the DOH (which includes allowing access to Death with Dignity) will soon change to bring them into line with Catholic doctrine.  

PeaceHealth also is in a partnership with UW Medicine that calls for expanded Family Medicine training.  As evidenced by a recent job posting on Linked In, family physicians at PeaceHealth in Vancouver are required to follow the ERDs.  This means UW medical students are learning family medicine in a “restricted” environment, where physicians are restricted from providing legal, medically appropriate services.  Those students are essentially learning that you can segregate services based on religious beliefs which have nothing to do with medical necessity or the best care patient standards.  UW physicians and medical students are alarmed.

These are a few examples of how and when services are curtailed.  But look for the Washington Hospital Association and the Catholic hospitals to continue pointing to a fatally flawed report that contradicts the ACTUAL policies that Catholic health care ministries now enforce on patients and physicians throughout the state.

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4 thoughts on “Catholic Hospital Policies and a Fatally Flawed Report

  1. KAC

    I understand from the disclaimer that the report is a “first look”, but I’m confused by two apparently contradictory statements, to wit, that hospitals are required to submit policies to the WA State Dept of Health (that seems clear enough), but the Catholic-controlled Washington Hospitals Association advised member institutions that they need not respond to this mandate. Even if they did not, they would remain ‘in compliance”. Perhaps in your next posting you can clarify this evident discrepancy.

  2. Frances

    I perused the DOH website and clicked on several hospitals. Many only have a charity care policy with none of the others supplied. Curiously, Deaconess’ EOL policy doesn’t even mention DWD even though it was updated in Feb 2014. What sort of repercussions are there for centers that submit incomplete documents or- worse yet- none at all? If this were a college class they would get an “F” for that assignment. How does this work ” in “real life” I wonder? If there were a consequence (say a hefty fine for every day they are not in compliance) then perhaps they would supply this information to the public as required by law.
    The UW policies seem to be the most complete (and gratifyingly brief and to-the-point). It will be interesting to see if these change given it’s recent affiliation.

  3. KAC

    Unfortunate, to be sure. Even worse, while the agenda is obvious, politicians ranging from irresolute to indifferent to opportunistic (alone or in combination) and other “government servants” are doing nothing to enforce existing legislation.

    Short of a tidal wave of public agitation (not going to happen) the most promising prospect is specifically targeted lawsuits (e.g., medical malpractice) for reproductive issues. One pragmatic solution for dealing with delivery of supportive “healthcare”, those that contravene end-of-life advance directives, is to stipulate that unwanted services will not be paid for. Will those unfortunates in the local hospice who desire “death with dignity” and who refuse to pay for continued services be kicked out? How will that be accomplished by the facility and what are the ramifications?

  4. Dina

    This is one of the scariest articles I have read. How is this happening? Reproductive health based on one groups religious belief is absolutly ridiculous and dangerous! The tax break is unbelievable also. I am sick to my stomach!!


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