An expected merger between a secular and Catholic health system in the state of Washington has raised concerns of citizens and secular hospitals in the region that seek and offer care Catholic hospitals may not offer.
Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital recently announced that it is abandoning its former name, Virginia Mason Memorial, after receiving word that the Virginia Mason Health System, which Yakima Valley Memorial was a part of, may merge with CHI Franciscan, a Catholic nonprofit health system that operates 11 hospitals in the region. The Virginia Mason Health System operates 10 clinics in the Seattle area, all linked to its main campus in Seattle.
Board members of Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital voted Oct. 28 to end the hospital’s four-year affiliation with Seattle-based Virginia Mason Health System, and will soon replace its signs to reflect its new name Yakima Herald reported January 4. The new name is actually the same name it had four years ago before it became part of the Virginia Mason Health System. The vote came after concerns about some aspects of local care in light of an expected merger between Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan.
A citizen from Port Orchard said she is concerned that the merger will force the secular hospitals to abide by the directives of Catholic teaching.
“Currently, our hospital choices within a reasonable driving distance are St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale or St. Anthony’s in Gig Harbor,” said Ann Giantvalley in a letter to Kitsap Sun, a publication for Kitsap County which is across the Puget Sound from Seattle. “Both are fine hospitals with excellent medical staff. However, and that is a big however, a secular hospital/health care facilities are needed for those who do not wish to have Catholic directives determined for them such as contraception, sterilization (tubal ligations, vasectomy), infertility treatments, end of life decisions, and more.”
She added, “My choice for a hospital is a secular hospital … and that now means travel to Tacoma or Seattle, a longer distance or transport should I need it.”