A proposed affiliation between Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton and the Franciscan Health System will not be reviewed by the state and can move ahead, the Department of Health said Tuesday.
The decision prompted criticism by the ACLU of Washington, which said the state is “abdicating its role as a watchdog for health care transactions,” because of restrictions on access to legal reproductive and end-of-life options imposed by Franciscan, a Catholic health-care system.
“The proposed affiliation will have significant impacts on patient access to lawful health care and is precisely the type of transaction which should undergo government review,” the ACLU said in a statement.
Harrison officials earlier this year said the medical center would remain “secular” but would be governed by the ethical standards of Catholic Health Initiatives, Franciscan’s national parent company. However, the affiliation proposal calls for a holding company to ensure that Harrison remains secular.
The proposed arrangement, whose final details were not spelled out Tuesday, was announced in October, 2012, and is the latest in a string of partnership proposals between secular and religious health-care systems.
In late June, Gov. Jay Inslee directed the Department of Health to update rules for its Certificate of Need process, which governs major changes to hospitals, saying it should focus on how such transactions affect patient access to health services, not on the wording used by the parties for their affiliations.