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Catholic-Secular Hospital Mergers Cause a Stir in Washington State

A wave of mergers between Catholic healthcare organizations and secular community hospitals has raised concerns among liberal-minded Washington state residents, according to a ProPublica report.

By the end of this year, the American Civil Liberties Union estimates almost half of the state's hospital beds could be under the Catholic Church's influence or control, possibly leading to restricted access to birth control, sterilization, abortion, fertility treatments, genetic testing and assisted suicide, according to the report.

In recent years, Washington has experienced the highest rate of Catholic-secular affiliations in the country, with at least 10 such deals completed or proposed during the past three years, Sheila Reynertson of the New York City-based nonprofit MergerWatch told ProPublica.

The ACLU of Washington and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington have expressed concerns about the trend. Merger activity such as Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System's acquisition of Burien-based Highline Medical Center prompted the groups to call for a six-month moratorium on hospital mergers and acquisitions in the state.

In response, Gov. Jay Inslee directed the Washington Department of Health to begin rulemaking to update the certificate of need process for hospital mergers and acquisitions.

The Washington State Hospital Association has defended the hospital partnerships as necessary to sustain local healthcare providers. In response to Gov. Inslee's proposed regulation changes, the WSHA wrote in its comments that some facilities would be forced to "dramatically cut" services or even close entirely if they didn’t merge or partner with other providers.

More Articles on Washington Hospital Mergers:
Washington Hospital Association Backs Religious, Secular Hospital Mergers
PeaceHealth, UW Medicine Finalize Care Partnership
Washington AG: Public Hospitals Must Provide Access to Abortions, Birth Control 

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