ACLU asks Inslee for moratorium on hospital mergers



Posted on June 4, 2013 at 7:27 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 4 at 7:41 PM

The ACLU is concerned that recent hospital mergers in our state compromise patient care, and that treatment would be driven by religious beliefs instead of patient needs.

The civil rights organization is asking the governor for a moratorium on hospital mergers and affiliations.

"When you have religiously controlled hospitals merging with secular hospitals, patients' ability to access those full range, medically appropriate, lawful procedures could get compromised," said Doug Honic, ACLU of Washington.

According the ACLU, in 2010, 26 percent of the hospital beds in the state were under the care of religious health care corporations. In 2013, that number jumped to 40 percent.

The organization wrote a letter to the governor asking for a 6 month moratorium on such mergers and affiliations to study the impact, especially on outlying communities.

"In some counties, the only hospital available is a religiously controlled one," said Honig.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said he shared the concerns, but wasn't willing to call for a moratorium just yet.

"There are not just reproductive health issues, there are issues with end of life care," said Inslee. "There are issues with gay and lesbians getting adequate treatment."

When Swedish Health Services and the Catholic-controlled Providence Health combined forces two years ago, Swedish stopped performing elective abortions. Instead, it referred the services to Planned Parenthood and private clinics.

The most recent affiliation to come under fire is the UW Medicine partnership with PeaceHealth that was announced two weeks ago.

In a written statement, Tina Mankowski, associated vice president of Medical Affairs clarified the relationship, stating it was an affiliation only, not a merger.

"Both health systems will continue to operate under their own policies. UW Medicine will continue to provide access to reproductive services and provide end of life treatment. Our students and residents will continue to train in both secular and non-secular health care settings," wrote Mankowski.