The horse may be out of the barn on this one, with most hospitals in Washington settled into mergers and affiliations with bigger systems — many of them Catholic, with the attendant restrictions on reproduction and end-of-life care.
Even so, the state’s Department of Health has hatched new rules requiring that any hospital changing control in the future through a sale, affiliation or merger must seek a Certificate of Need review. Before ownership transfer can take place, facilities must reveal their policies on admission, non-discrimination, end-of-life care and reproductive health care services to be posted on their own websites and on the health department website for public access and comment.
In addition, the new rules require all current hospitals to post those policies on their websites and send to the Department of Health for posting. The new rules take effect Jan. 23; hospitals have an additional 60 days to submit policies to the state.
Some hospitals estimated it would cost as much as $100,000 to develop a reproductive-care policy. The vast majority of hospitals in Washington said they had no such policy.
The rule changes are a result of a query from Gov. Jay Inslee, who asked for a review of the process after a wave of criticism and news stories focused on the widespread growth of religious control over hospitals in Washington and the lack of public disclosure of religions restrictions.
More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been active in opposition to religious control of hospitals, sued the American Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of a woman treated at a Catholic hospital in Michigan who said crucial information about the option to terminate her pregnancy had been withheld.
Locally, the Office of Financial Management’s Healthcare Research Group has released a draft report called “Access to care,” about the effects of hospital mergers. Comments are due by Jan. 17 to Joe.Campo@OFM.WA.GOV.