The ACLU of Washington and 10 other advocacy organizations have asked Gov. Jay Inslee to enact a six-month moratorium on state approvals of hospital mergers, saying religious-secular affiliations put patients at risk of being denied legal health services because of Catholic religious restrictions.
Recently, the state Department of Health, through its Certificate of Need program, approved an application by PeaceHealth, a Catholic health system founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, to lease and operate United General Hospital, owned by a tax-supported public hospital district in Sedro Woolley, Skagit County.
In its evaluation, the state noted that the proposed arrangement had drawn criticism from those concerned about access to women’s reproductive services and end-of-life care options. But the state said that under the status quo the hospital was in danger of having to close, and it did not expect the lease-operation agreement to close any existing services.
The arrangement is the latest in a string of affiliations between secular and Catholic hospital systems in Washington.
The ACLU letter to to Inslee cites “serious state constitutional concerns when public, tax-funded hospitals consolidate with religious health care corporations,” sometimes with arrangements that include long-term taxpayer subsidies going to religious health-care corporations.
Jason McGill, Inslee’s executive policy advisor, said: “The Governor does want to protect women’s access to reproductive services and ensure that we have a competitive health care environment, so he is concerned about some of the allegations.”
Inslee has asked staff to research “all available options” that will help ensure all Washingtonians maintain access to all health care services, from reproductive care to end-of life-services, said Jaime Smith, Inslee spokesman. “The options we’re looking into include the moratorium.”