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Health Care Could Be Threatened by Hospital Merger

One in four hospitals in Indiana is run by the Catholic Church. (Virginia Carter)
One in four hospitals in Indiana is run by the Catholic Church. (Virginia Carter)
May 30, 2017

GARY, Ind. — A proposed takeover of Gary, Indiana's only hospital by a Catholic organization is raising some eyebrows.

A merger would mean Gary's Methodist Hospital would be managed by Franciscan Health, which is run by the Roman Catholic Church. Hospital management have said they will follow directives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Amy Littlefield is an investigative reporter for Rewire. She said the takeover could mean the denial of care for some residents because the church forbids most forms of contraceptives, sterilization, abortion and some fertility treatments, and restricts end-of-life care.

“Health care providers in cases that we've seen across the country have used these directives to deny care to transgender patients who are seeking surgery, to patients who are in the process of miscarrying who need urgent care,” Littlefield said.

She cited the case of an Illinois woman who was denied treatment after an IUD became dislodged and she was in pain. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Catholic hospitals repeatedly for denying care for miscarriages and gender-affirming surgery.

A town hall meeting on the hospital merger will be held in Gary on Wednesday, May 31.

Littlefield said traveling to another hospital outside city limits isn't always an option for Gary residents. Nearly 40 percent of the city's residents live in poverty and rely on public transportation.

"So if the only hospital were to come under these religious restrictions on a whole range of basic health care, the people would potentially need to be traveling outside the city to other cities on buses in order to be able get that care,” Littlefield said.

Nationwide, 1-in-6 acute-care hospital beds are run by the Catholic Church; in Indiana, it’s about 1-in-4. Across the country, there are around 50 Catholic-run Hospitals that are the only hospital in the region.

More information is available here.

This story was produced in partnership with Rewire.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN