Recently, Judith Persichilli, interim president and CEO of the newly merged Catholic Health East – Trinty Health said that government payers supply 60-65% of all funding for the $13.3 billion Catholic health care ministry she oversees. According to the latest 990 for Catholic Health East (CHE), Persichilli made $3,890,553 in 2012, the year before a merger combining CHE and Trinity Health took place.
CHE – Trinty is now the second largest Catholic health care ministry in the nation, with 82 hospitals, 88 continuing care facilities and home health and hospice programs, more than 87,000 employees, and more than 4,000 physicians. According to Persichilli, it is very strong financially.
Included in the system is Mercy Health, which operates in Western Michigan. Mercy Health was at the center of the news a few months ago when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Tamesha Means, who was denied care after her water broke after 18 weeks of pregnancy. The suit claims that the Catholic bishops’ policies resulted in harm to Means because they prohibited the hospital from complying with the applicable standard of care.
According to the ACLU, the binding directives resulted in the hospital sending Means home twice, causing significant risks to her health. The physicians did not tell her that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition. “When Means returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection,” the ACLU said, the hospital again prepared to send her home, and only when Means began to deliver did the hospital begin tending to her miscarriage in progress.
As researchers have documented, miscarriage mismanagement is a common occurrence in Catholic hospitals. As the report stated, physicians were often “denied permission to perform an abortion when uterine evacuation was medically indicated and fetal heart tones were still present.”
Persichelli is clear that what happened to Means is policy for the health care empire she oversees. In fact, she would like to see things go a step further. Recently, when asked about the situation in Ireland where the death of Savita Halappanavar spurred changes to Irish law enabling physicians to perform an abortion to save the life of a woman, a change which the Catholic bishops said restricted their religious freedom rights, Persichelli said “The ERDs are about 72 guidelines that are published by the Conference of Bishops that we’re bound by and we do and must pay attention to them.”
Persicheilli went on to say, “We’re coming into an era where we’ll perhaps have some legal battles and we’ll have to come together to fight – particularly if it’s a nonnegotiable and abortion being one…..this is where the Catholic hospitals and the Conference of Bishops can come together and have a united front against.”
So, a CEO who makes almost $4 million in a $13+ billion dollar empire that the government largely funds is girding for battle to deny women life-saving care. The battle will pit women’s health advocates against hospitals and the Catholic bishops. And because the U.S. government, according to the CEO’s own admission, funds almost two-thirds of the revenues for the 80+ health care empire she oversees, the funds used to support the hospitals and the bishops’ case will come from U.S. taxpayers, including you and me.
Perhaps a legal analyst can help me understand how and why it’s Constitutional for someone to use my tax dollars to pay multimillion dollar executives to lead the charge to deprive women of lifesaving care?