There were probably 80 – 100 people at the WA Health Dept. Hearing on hospital mergers including reps from the SEIU, ACLU, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Secular Humanists, Catholic Watch, etc, along with 30+ of our MoveOn.org petition signers, a Hospital Administrators Assoc. Rep. and the general public.
Of those testifying, at least 90% expressed that the proposed rules didn’t go far enough in requiring transparency of a hospital’s contraception and end of life policies, given patients’ need to know. Also that the whole issue of the denial of legal health care due to the Bishops’ Directives (ERDs) when Catholic hospitals affiliate and merge with secular health care facilities was inadequately addressed in the proposed rules.
The Hospital Administrators Assoc. expressed that the proposed rules were not only not needed but counter-productive and too expensive to implement. Others expressed that the Catholic hospitals have provided significant health services in our state for decades and shouldn’t have to yield to another set of government regulations, that abortions and Death with Dignity were red herrings.
Hospital mergers and affiliations often result in staff reductions, changed staffing patterns, pay freezes or pay reductions, elimination of some legal health services and emphasizing others, all designed to turn the acquired facilities primarily into profit centers rather than primarily health care centers.
Health Care Best Practices should always be primary and not be subject to profit motives.
Catholic Bishops’ policies refuse to honor certain provisions of Advanced Directives, so without the patient, patient’s family or transporters (EMTs and ambulance drivers) knowing in advance what a particular secular hospital’s policies are (Catholic Bishops’ policies?), some patients end up inadvertently at the wrong hospital where their legal final wishes are denied due solely to religious dogma. Communities need to know what a facility’s policies are so patients don’t spend their final days in pain and embarrassing condition, unless they choose to.
Doctors and other health care workers are required to sign allegiance to the Catholic Bishop’s Directives (ERDs) to be able to have privileges at Catholic hospitals and this allegiance also applies to their private practice, further restricting legal health services to residents of their communities.
In some parts of the state, due to the Catholic Bishops’ Directives, there are no family planning services and there is only skewed end of life care within a 100 miles.
Patient Rights should always come first before religious ideology or insurance company and hospital profits.
MoveOn.org Testimony by Chuck Bean at WA Health Dept. Certificate of Need Hearing Nov. 26, 2013 on behalf of 5,100 signers of a MoveOn.org Petition to ” Prohibit the Denial of Legal Health Care Services in WA State” http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/prohibit-denial-of-legal?mailing_id=17577&source=s.icn.em.cr&r_by=378069 and on behalf of the Seattle Chapter of American’s United for Separation of Church and State:
As more secular hospitals merge and affiliate with religious ones, nearly half of WA state hospital beds are now controlled by Catholic ideology that prohibits contraceptive counseling and contraceptive methods including condoms, birth control pills, IUDs, vasectomies and tubal ligations; and that prohibits fertility assistance, abortion and end of life “death with dignity” & “advance directives”, all of which are legal in WA State.
Non-Catholics and Catholics alike increasingly find themselves in situations in which the only health care available is limited by these restrictions, dictated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs).
WA State has the highest percentage of religious control of hospital beds in the U.S. and it is continuing to increase (26% in 2010, 45% so far in 2013).
Hospitals receiving payments from Medicare, Medicaid, direct subsidies from public funds or tax breaks, should be prohibited from denying legal family planning and end of life “death with dignity” services based on religious ideology. The majority of WA voters created the rights to those legal health services and expect WA State government to guarantee that they will be available to all Washingtonians.
The WA State Dept. of Health and County Public Hospital Districts need to ensure that, if a healthcare system is allowed by law to not provide certain family planning and end of life services directly, that that system finds another way for citizens to get those services nearby and refers them to the appropriate place to receive them. The refusing healthcare system needs to pay for all costs of their being provided by another.
Regarding transparency, and in the interest of a patient’s need to know, we support the recommendation that a checklist of key reproduction and end of life services be required to be prominently posted by all hospitals on their websites, but not just on their websites which is a limited and specialized window, but also prominently posted in hard copy in their waiting rooms and near their admission desks so folks entering their facilities can also be informed. This posting should be in large print and in lay persons’ language clearly indicating the hospital’s policies and where any denied services can be obtained, nearby.