Reason to take time

Lots of news has surfaced recently about the proposed affiliation between Harrison Medical Center and Franciscan Health System. While the affiliation could be approved at anytime, it appears that it may be awhile before the Washington Department of Health’s Facility Certification Program makes a decision.

By law, the department has 30 days to study the proposal. Both officials of Harrison and Franciscan say they are expecting a ruling before then. But what’s at hand is whether the department will require a certificate of need, which would require a public comment period.

Neither Harrison or Franciscan think that the certificate of need is required because the hospitals are affiliating and the certificate of need is usually only required when there is a sale or a merger of two health care facilities.

Department of Health officials say they aren’t ready to make a decision and offer that if the parties go ahead with the affiliation prior to the department’s decision they are doing so at their own risk.

The concern at hand with the affiliation is the joining of a secular and a religious medical community and the possible outcome to patients. While Harrison officials have told the public that it would not be held to the Franciscan Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives, residents in Kitsap County are concerned.

They hear that Franciscan could have the final say over board members at Harrison and who serves as CEO. They hear that at other places where hospitals have affiliated with Franciscan, name changes and rule changes have followed.That could mean a limit on abortions when the mother’s life is at stake, birth control in general, and for end-of-life decisions.

Harrison officials have publicly said any delay in going forward with the affiliation will cost both medical centers time and money when the whole point of making the affiliation is to save money and hence, save services for patients.

But should the Department of Health require the certificate of need process, the public will have another opportunity to have their questions answered.

There’s a lot at stake. If an affiliation happens, Kitsap County residents will have to travel to Tacoma or Seattle to be seen at a strictly secular medical institution.

In any community, hospitals and medical clinics are seen as a part of the community. Although they may be privately owned, they still are looked at as belonging to the people. The community should have their say in the future of Harrison Medical Center and any affiliation it has planned.


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