The clash between secular and Roman Catholic healthcare values is holding up a deal between a tax-supported community hospital and a Catholic system in Oregon.
At stake is an affiliation agreement that the Pacific Communities Health District signed with Seattle-based Providence Health System earlier this year. Pacific Communities includes five health clinics and a 41-bed hospital in Newport, a town of 9,960 people on Oregon's coast
The would-be partners are attempting a pre-emptive legal strike against opponents of the affiliation by asking a state judge to approve the deal and allow Pacific Communities to continue to collect $450,000 each year from western Oregon taxpayers. Opponents of the affiliation include an informal group of former Pacific Communities board members.
The opponents argue it's not legal for Pacific Communities to accept tax money and at the same time adhere to Roman Catholic religious and ethical healthcare rules, said Jane Paulson, a Portland attorney who represents one of the former board members. Pacific Communities either must continue to offer the broad range of services--sterilizations; abortions; physician-assisted suicides, which are legal in Oregon; and access to birth control drugs--or lose its tax funding, Paulson said.
Current Pacific Communities board members have argued that the district needs to join the Providence system to survive financially.
Providence, which was founded by the Sisters of Providence, owns 18 hospitals and manages two others in Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington. Providence also owns health plans and long-term- care centers.
The Lincoln County judge hearing the case said he would rule in February after considering written closing arguments from all the parties involved, Paulson said.