By this time next year, the ACLU estimates that 47% of the acute-care hospital beds in the state will be subject to the doctrine of the Catholic bishops. This is the highest percentage of Catholic-controlled healthcare in the nation. (The bed-unit number also serves as a proxy for health care more broadly as hospital systems buy up labs, physician practices, etc.)
The three major Catholic networks (Providence, PeaceHealth, Catholic Health Inititatives/Franciscan operating in Washington State are on an aggressive acquisition/merger spree – according to MergerWatch out of NY, WA has the highest rate of merger activity by Catholic health networks in the nation. In many areas of the state, including the Olympic Peninsula, Bellingham, and San Juan Island, Catholic health networks own or will soon own 100% of major medical services.
The WA Constitution is clear that no public dollars are to be used to finance any religious establishment. “Catholic health care ministries” (which is what they call these entitities) are now infused with Catholic doctrine and view, as a primary mission, the application and spread of Catholic mores and beliefs into everything employees do.
Later this year, PeaceHealth will be merged with Franciscan/CHI, which requires all of its employees to follow ALL of the bishops ethical and religious directives as a condition of employment. This means that all staff, including physicians, nurses, social workers, and clerical staff (including the people who keep hospital records) will be required to follow all of the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, which means no contraception, abortion (even if a woman’s life is in danger), vascectomies, or tubal ligation.