Letter to the Editor | Catholic Hospitals Restrict Access to Healthcare

If you are a person needing reproductive health care, from contraceptives to abortion, beware of Catholic hospitals and their provider networks. That’s a message many people have not received, according to a recent study by researchers from California and Illinois, published in the journal Science Direct.

The national study asked women ages 18–45 (with a response rate of 50 percent) what hospital they would go to for reproductive care and what the religious affiliation of that hospital was. The answers revealed confusion.
“Over one third of U.S. women who named a Catholic hospital as their primary hospital for reproductive care are unaware it is Catholic. Women are more likely to correctly identify a hospital as Catholic when that hospital has a religious sounding name,” the researchers reported.

They concluded “patients need accurate information in order to make decisions about where to seek reproductive healthcare. Our results suggest that women are often unaware of their hospital’s religious affiliation. Efforts are needed to increase hospital transparency and patient awareness of the implications that arise when health care is restricted by religion.”

How transparent are Peoria’s hospitals and providers? I met a woman who was taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center after a serious auto accident. She learned she was six weeks pregnant, and needed an abortion before a physician would operate to repair a broken hip and leg. With a broken hip, she had to leave the Catholic hospital to get an abortion at the Peoria clinic. She was furious, and rightly so. She felt the procedure should have been done at the hospital to help in her recovery from the collision.

MergerWatch has reported “the number of Catholic-owned or affiliated hospitals in the United States has grown by 22 percent since 2001, and now 1 in 6 acute care beds is in a hospital connected to the church.”

Mergers and acquisitions over the past 15 years have resulted in nearly 15 percent of all acute care hospitals in the nation now either owned by or affiliated with the Catholic Church, according to the study.

“In 10 U.S. states, the number of Catholic hospitals is more than 30 percent,” MergerWatch reported, as quoted by the online journal Fierce Healthcare.

There are now 46 Catholic-restricted hospitals that are the only providers of short-term acute hospital care for people living in their geographic regions, it noted.

So people must be vigilant. Women and men need information, and their medical providers should be transparent in all aspects of reproductive health, from emergencies to routine care.

Elaine Hopkins, Peoria



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