Critics, proponents debate Louisville hospital merger

Questions regarding ectopic pregnancy, end-of-life care and funding for indigent care were addressed Wednesday by proponents and critics of a proposed merger between University Hospital, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and St. Joseph Health System. The issues were discussed at a meeting of the Louisville Forum.

The merger, which still needs approval by Gov. Steve Beshear, would give St. Joseph majority control over the three systems. Because St. Joseph is owned by Catholic Health Initiatives, University Hospital and Jewish and St. Mary’s would have to adhere to Catholic health directives.
As such, “The other merger partners have agreed not to perform certain services forbidden by those directives: elective abortions; sterilizations; contraceptive dispensing for the purpose of contraception only (except in cases of sexual assault when the victim isn’t already pregnant); artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilizations; and euthanasia,” reports Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal.
Altogether, there are 72 Catholic health directives, but David Laird, president and chief executive officer of Jewish and St. Mary’s, said his organization and University Hospital have not agreed to abide by all of them. “We are not a Catholic hospital,” said Laird, left. “University will not become a Catholic hospital,” he said. (Photo by Frankie Steele)
Merger critic Beverly Glascock, a Louisville attorney and former nurse, broached the issue of ectopic pregnancies, which occur in the fallopian tube rather than in the womb. In all cases, the fetus cannot survive and there is danger to the mother if the tube bursts.
But, in a merger document released earlier this week, one of the banned procedures includes “elective (direct) abortions.” “In the case of extra-uterine pregnancy, no direct abortion will be performed,” the document reads.
Dr. Dan Varga, chief medical officer for St. Joseph Health System, addressed the issue, saying “a direct abortion is the termination of a viable pregnancy, and ectopic pregnancies are, by definition, not viable,” Ungar reports.
The issue of indigent care was also discussed. Since CHI has said it will invest $320 million in the deal and commit $200 million to improve University and Jewish hospitals, one audience member asked how much of that would be used for indigent care. Laird said a combined $270 million in indigent care is already being spent. As for whether the CHI funds will increase that sum, Laird said he could not say. “How much will these hundreds of millions of dollars will go to help the indigent?” Glasscock asked. “Not one dollar, not a cent.”
As for end-of-life care, merger partners said they have “agreed only not to perform euthanasia, which they do now,” Ungar said. Continuing to provide food to someone in a vegetative state and honoring living wills should not be a concern. (Read more) To view a video of part of the hospital merger discussion, click here.
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