Ashland Community Hospital & Dignity Health merger to be addressed in two forums

Ashland advocates of choice at the end of life have asked, will an upcoming merger between Ashland Community Hospital and Dignity Health have an impact on how the Oregon Death with Dignity law is implemented in our community?

Two community forums next week with representatives from Ashland Community Hospital and Dignity Health could be the public’s last opportunity to inquire and provide input about a possible merger before the final phase of negotiations begins.

Both meetings will take place in the Ashland Community Hospital cafeteria, 560 Catalina Drive

Thursday – September 13, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Friday – September 14, 9 to 10:30 a.m

Plan to attend one or both of these public meetings – AND BRING A FRIEND. Bring questions and comments to testify on behalf of the right to choice at the end of life.

Compassion & Choices of Oregon’s Executive Director Jason Renaud will be at the ACH cafeteria to meet with supporters a half an hour prior to both meetings.

The question comes from our experience of Oregon Catholic hospitals, in Portland, in Medford, in Bend and in Eugene which restrict physicians and staff from speaking with their patients about the Oregon Death with Dignity law. Dignity Health, which was until recently Catholic Healthcare West, is shedding its religious restrictions and practices. But the company’s Statement of Common Values says, “Death is a sacred part of life’s journey; we will intentionally neither hasten nor delay it. For this reason, physician-assisted suicide is not part of Dignity Health’s mission.”

Here are the concerns of supporters of Compassion & Choices of Oregon about this upcoming merger.

1. Use of the word ‘suicide’ intentionally mis-characterizes and demeans the well-accepted Oregon practice of physician aid in dying. Use of the term “physician-assisted suicide” promoted by Catholic opponents of the Oregon law accuses Oregon doctors of an act illegal in Oregon – assisting a suicide.
2. Instead of showing us their aid in dying policy, Ashland Community Hospital representatives stated the hospital’s policies around the Oregon Death with Dignity law will remain the same. We’d like to know what the policies are.
3. Ashland Community Hospital physicians must not be restricted from communicating with patients about aid in dying, charting patient notes or prescribing for patients as protected by the Oregon Death with Dignity law.
4. Other Ashland Community Hospital staff persons, such as social workers, nurses and administrators must not be restricted from communicating with patients about the Oregon Death with Dignity law.

“We know our hospital and staff will continue with the same philosophy of care, placing the highest concern on what our patients and their families need,” Mark Marchetti, Ashland Community Hospital chief executive officer, said in the press release. “Information at these forums will help local residents understand how we will maintain independent local control for the hospital, while adding the support system of a large network.”

A memorandum of understanding will have to be signed to formalize Ashland Community Hospital’s membership with Dignity Health.

If the process goes accordingly, a partnership will be formed by the beginning of October, said Janet Troy, Ashland Community Hospital director of development.

Dignity Health, the nation’s fifth largest hospital system, is based out of San Francisco and operates 40 hospitals and 150 care centers in California, Arizona and Nevada, employing about 65,000 people. If a partnership is formed with Ashland Community Hospital, it will be the health care system’s first affiliate in Oregon.

Because the hospital operates under a long-term lease with the city of Ashland, the City Council will have a say in approving whatever lease arrangement emerges out of an alliance.

READ – Ashland Community Hospital services won’t change under Dignity, April 13, 2012
READ – Ashland Community Hospital experiences a $2.5 million loss, August 25, 2012

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