All across the U.S., but particularly here in California, community and especially rural hospitals are merging to form larger and more financially-stable organizations. Many of the mergers are with two financially-strong Catholic healthcare systems, St. Joseph Health and Dignity. In fact, the Northern Sonoma County Healthcare District (Healdsburg District Hospital) is currently pursuing a merger with St. Joseph and the Petaluma Valley Hospital with a future combination of St. Joseph and Adventist Health (see website links below).
The problem with these mergers is the same as that regarding Catholic hospitals: Catholic hospitals, and future “merged operations,” must operate within the guidelines of the American Catholic Bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” (ERDs), which unfortunately forbid, among other things, counseling and treatment for transgender conditions, contraception and sterilization (e.eg. tubal ligation), abortion (even emergency-related conditions), etc. These ERDs raise a host of problems regarding commonly-accepted medical practices, civil liberties, and Constitutionally-protected rights.
The ACLU issued a May 2016 study, “Health Care Denied,” citing many tragic cases that resulted from application of the ERDs.
As a result of the threat of these mergers, the ACLU of Northern California started a campaign in 2019, “All Care Everywhere,” to raise Californians’ awareness of this threat and to provide full, ongoing information of its campaign against such mergers.
On a local basis, the Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California has made its concerns known to the Northern Sonoma County Healthcare District regarding the proposed merger and is following the issue closely.
Links to relevant websites:
Catholic bishops shaping health care in rural America: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-catholic-bishops-are-shaping-health-care-in-rural-america/
Northern Sonoma County Healthcare District merger
Petaluma Valley Hospital merger: https://phcd.org/duediligence.php
Problems posed by Bishops’ ERDs to mergers: https://healthlaw.org/resource/the-ethical-religious-directives-what-the-2018-update-means-for-catholic-hospital-mergers
ACLU’s “Health Care Denied”: https://www.aclu.org/report/report-health-care-denied?redirect=report/health-care-denied
All Care Everywhere: https://www.allcareeverywhere.com/
If you have any questions about these issues or would like to assist the Sonoma County ACLU Chapter’s activities in this area, please contact us at email@example.com.
Page last updated: December 6th, 2019