The American Public Health Association took a hard line on deals between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals during its annual meeting last week in Boston.
The group's 184-member governing council approved a policy statement that recommends more government oversight to ensure reproductive healthcare services aren't lost in such deals. The statement also encourages hospitals to use "creative solutions" to preserve reproductive services.
These creative solutions typically involve special business arrangements that enable the non-Catholic hospital partner to continue providing reproductive services, such as tubal ligations, that are prohibited by the Catholic Church.
"I hope this will send a strong message to the hospitals in the United States that they cannot easily eliminate reproductive services and end-of-life choices in order to complete business deals," said Lois Uttley, director of Albany, N.Y.-based MergerWatch, a group that monitors deals for their effect on women's services. "Public health should not be sacrificed for the bottom line."
Uttley, who is a member of the APHA, and other public health advocates and activists developed the policy statement, which was approved Nov. 15 by the APHA. In 1997, the association passed a resolution that called for the preservation of reproductive services in mergers or affiliations with religious healthcare systems.
"It is unfortunate that the resolution failed to recognize the significant past and current contribution of faith-based healthcare to the quality of healthcare in this country," said the Rev. Michael Place, president and chief executive officer of St. Louis-based Catholic Health Association. The CHA represents more than 2,000 Catholic healthcare providers, sponsors and health plans.
The APHA's latest action comes as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops is mulling revisions to the church's rules regarding deals between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals.
The bishops, who met last week in Washington, canceled their discussion on proposed revisions to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services so they could consider new modifications (Nov. 13, p. 4).
The revisions are aimed at deals between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals where special arrangements, or the so-called creative solutions, are used.