On Sept. 13, Chris McGuinness reported on the Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives merger and its impact on the San Luis Obispo community ("Dignity Health merger proposal draws community concerns"), especially women, LGBTQIA-plus, and low-income members of our community. This is ironic because a health care organization should be committed to the social, physical, and mental well-being of all humankind, but this merger may place restrictions and bans on certain health care services that are intended to enhance these well-beings.
As a public health student and a SLO resident, I strongly oppose this merger, unless conditions are imposed to ensure standardized and quality care for all patients. The merger between Dignity Health (formerly Catholic Healthcare West (CHW)) and Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) poses a threat to services provided to cis-female, under/uninsured, and LGBTQIA-plus patients. The city of SLO has roughly 50,000 residents and only four hospitals are in the entire county, two of which are Dignity-owned hospitals. Such a merger would limit a huge portion of the population when it comes to equitable access. When Dignity Health was CHW, a CHW hospital terminated a pregnancy to save a woman with life-threatening pulmonary hypertension.
As a result, Bishop Thomas Olmstead revoked his endorsement of that hospital as a Catholic institution and this was followed by the excommunication of Sister Margaret Mary McBride, a member of the ethics committee. The bishop proclaimed that the hospital did not properly carry out the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, setting a dangerous precedent for the unification of religion and health.
This merger should not continue forward unless there are guaranteed safeguards for the most vulnerable in our community. I call on state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to ensure that these safeguards are clearly defined and strictly imposed. I urge SLO residents to speak up at the office of Becerra this Friday, Sept. 21, at 10 a.m.
See you there.
San Luis Obispo