Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Hospitals, Acquisitions, And Mergers

Here we go again…

I was around when this happened the first time, when CMC and the Elliot Hospital were merged. When I say “around", I worked for Optima Health for the better part of 5 years. I started working for them in 1996, when I was still working actively in the IT/networking/data communications field. I have to say that for the most part I was an outsider in the department as most of the people who I worked with had an allegiance to one hospital or the other. It made for some very interesting situations. Plus, there was more than a little conflict within the department because of this whole allegiance issue.

For lack of a better choice of words, the merger was an unhappy marriage, and it came apart rather acrimoniously in 2001. I was sent to work for CMC, and while I wasn’t unhappy about it in the short term, the person who was the Chief Information Officer and I didn’t see eye to eye on lots of things. My position was eliminated in October of 2001, and I was effectively shut out of working in the field again after that. Ironically, she was let go about 6 months after I was. And, bitter as it may sound, I thought that was pretty funny.

In the long run, I have to say that they did me a favor. And while I think that the hospital itself is a decent place to get medical care, I think the people who run it – administrators, not clinicians – still have their heads jammed up into places where sunlight won’t reach.

Now there is this situation between CMC and Dartmouth-Hitchcock working on an “affiliation.” It’s been going on for a while, apparently, and the people in charge have managed to keep it under the radar for quite some time. There are many Catholics who don’t want to see it happen because of what in my mind is an irrational fear that CMC will start to stray away from “Catholic health care”, whatever that means. Mostly, it’s the worry that because of this so-called affiliation – which hasn’t happened yet, incidentally; it’s still on the burner – CMC will stray from the ethical guidelines outlined by the Church through the auspices of the Diocese of Manchester. That includes a number of things, especially anything having to do with female reproduction, including (yes, I’m going to say it) abortion and sterilization. It also includes end-of-life care issues that the Catholic church has concerns about. Like stopping nutrition and hydration to someone imminently dying. And doing research using embryos that would ultimately be destroyed.

Personally, I agree with the nutrition/hydration issue; I think it’s cruel to starve someone, regardless of whether or not they are dying. The only way I think this would be remotely acceptable is that if said person made the choice to stop nutrition or hydration of their own free will. Otherwise, no dice. As for the embryo thing, I think there is more to the story, and the Church simply doesn’t want to hear it. Is it morally acceptable? I don’t know; it depends on the status of the embryos themselves, I think, as well as who and where they came from. Was there a reason why they would have ended up being used for research in the first place? And would they have ultimately been able to become viable human beings? I think the Church’s stance is that is doesn’t matter whether or not viability was to be considered.

All of these issues are incredibly thorny. Whether you agree or disagree with the Church’s position on all of this stuff, it makes for incredible discussion fodder. And it is a lot to think about either way.

I am of the opinion that if this affiliation becomes final, the breakdown of moral principle that so many local Catholics are worried about won’t happen. I say that because of history; there are so many entities – including the Bishop of Manchester – who would blow the roof off of the deal if any part of it were to become compromised, and I suspect it would wind up back in probate court, just like the Optima situation did back in the late 1990’s.

Like it or not, I do think it will happen. I think there are too many people who want to see it happen. At the same time, I think the Bishop has made some mistakes with regard to his part in the process. To get the details on that, you have to read the articles published in the Union Leader over time. And I’ve included the latest report from the Union Leader below, including links to some of the related stories.

In the meantime, a few people are determined to pick a fight. Read on…

CMC protesters say it's spiritual warfare

New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
13 hours, 15 minutes ago

MANCHESTER – Armed with religious icons, rosary beads and a satin-cloaked statue of the Virgin Mary, a small but determined group of Catholics met on the sidewalk in front of Catholic Medical Center yesterday to protest the erosion of Catholic ethical standards they say would result if the hospital affiliated with secular Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health.

"It is spiritual warfare that we're engaged in," Elizabeth J. Breuder of Bedford said.

The estimated 20 Catholics waged their battle on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a holy day for Roman Catholics. Some also brought pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexican Catholics, whose feast is celebrated Saturday.

"She is the protectress of the unborn," explained Breuder, 62, as she held a tapestry bearing an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"We're just begging our protectress to make sure the affiliation will not go through and that our hospital will remain Catholic and become more authentically Catholic," added Breuder, vice-president of New Hampshire Right to Life, a group that opposes abortion.

McCormack: Bishop must keep control at hospital (27)
Bishop: CMC ethics review to stay private (32)
CMC-Dartmouth-Hitchcock deal gets airing (25)
Part I: Views conflict on cost to patients (1)
Same procedure, much bigger bill (11)
Experts: 'Optima' errors avoided in hospitals' deal (12)

Catholic Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health are considering a plan to integrate CMC into a regional health system controlled by Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

In a letter to priests last month, Bishop John B. McCormack said he has not made a final decision about the proposed affiliation, but vowed CMC will not compromise Catholic ethical standards


Theresa Dizillo of Bedford joins New Hampshire Right to Life members in yesterday's protest to the proposed affiliation between Catholic Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock. (THOMAS ROY)

"He's given conditional approval for CMC to continue to go through the process, which includes the community forums, as part of his process to learn what the community's concerns are, which would be incorporated into his decision-making," diocesan spokesman Kevin J. Donovan said yesterday.

Protesters said it would be impossible to integrate the two hospitals and uphold Catholic health care standards such as prohibitions against abortion, sterilization, denying food and water to the terminally ill, and conducting research that results in the destruction of fertilized embryos.

"I never thought I would be here to see it again," said Theresa A. Chabot, 83, who opposed the merger of Catholic Medical Center with Elliot Hospital in 1994. The hospitals later broke apart.

"It's got to be independent," said Chabot, a great-grandmother, retired shoe worker and West Side native who lives in the shadow of CMC.

Chabot said she would like to see CMC regain its full Catholic identity and see Catholics serving in leadership positions.

"We, as Catholics, stand united to prevent this affiliation from taking place," Bedford resident Susan B. Lang, 53, added.

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