Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The New York Times and OSF's Oral Contraceptive Policy

The New York Times published an article today (February 21, 2012) explaining the ramifications of health care mergers.  They wrote about what happens when large Catholic health care systems buy smaller secular hospitals. Situations exist where patients still want to have contraceptives and sterilizations, but the Catholic health care system wants to restrict them.

It is a very interesting article and mentions OSF in Rockford. OSF Health Care System based out of Peoria is trying to buy a secular hospital in Rockford.  OSF already owns OSF-St. Anthony's in Rockford. 

People in Rockford are concerned that they might not have access to sterilizations at their secular hospital if OSF acquires it. 

But I don't think the people of Rockford have anything to worry about regarding getting contraceptives from OSF physicians with the anticipated new hospital merger. And here is why.

For 15 years now The Catholic Diocese of Peoria and The Catholic Diocese of Rockford have worked with OSF to allow contraceptives to be prescribed by OSF physicians in Rockford and Peoria through the "limited private practice" provision designed in the mid-90's right here in Peoria. It is a loophole that was created to allow OSF to remain competitive in the medical market place. And I doubt most people would even know that this dismal policy even exists if the Peoria Journal Star did not publish the story in 1995.

The New York Times reports today:

"OSF says Rockford needs fewer hospitals and wants to expand its network to better serve the area. “It’s all about how to deliver care, coordinated and efficient care,” said Robert C. Sehring, an executive at OSF.

OSF has already developed an arrangement in which affiliated doctors can prescribe birth control pills through a separate practice."

The "affiliated doctors" mentioned by the Times are OSF physicians. Similar words, "affiliated physicians", were used in a Peoria Journal Star editorial last week that was describing the outcry created by the new Obama mandate and the Catholic bishops reaction. (See this post.)

So what is my point?

If OSF buys the secular hospital in Rockford, it should apply Catholic morals to this hospital. OSF should not give in and have an elevator to a "secular floor" (or any other provisions) where sterilizations can be performed. 

And there should not be ANY policy to allow ANY Catholic teachings to be butchered inside an OSF facility. The limited private practice policy/loophole mentioned above DOES allow the Catholic bishops in Peoria and Rockford to cooperate with evil regarding contraceptives and should be stopped. 

Peoria Bishops John J. Myers and Daniel Jenky, as well as the Sisters of the Third Order in Peoria and OSF Corporate Ethicist Joseph Piccione, should be hanging their heads right now. Their devious policy created 15 years ago is being scrutinized and should be abolished if the Catholic bishops of the United States really mean what they say about their disagreement with President Obama and religious conscience.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Peoria Journal Star Editorial--February 14, 2012

Peoria Journal Star Editorial--February 14, 2012

From a public health and personal freedom perspective, those who wish to engage in family planning should be able to do so, with the intricacies that go into that decision a fundamentally private matter. From a religious liberty view, churches and their affiliates should not be required by government to do things that violate their consciences.
Between those walls one hoped the president could find room for an accommodation regarding his wishes for free access to insurance coverage for contraception that would, if not make everybody happy, at least compel them to return the swords to their scabbards. Religious leaders, most vocally America's Catholic bishops, had objected to the initial mandate, arguing that it was contrary to their moral convictions and a First Amendment that begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."
President Obama thought a workable compromise had been found last week, announcing he would pursue a policy that, like Hawaii's, targets insurance companies rather than employers so that "religious organizations won't have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly." Some of those straddling this divide had wondered aloud why the White House hadn't gone that route in the first place.
Of course, it hit a brick wall with opponents, who found the wording a bit too careful. The bishops have no intention of participating, directly or indirectly, in any practice they consider an evil. Providing access to abortifacients falls into that category for them. "There are two other branches of government that may treat our concerns more seriously," said a spokesman.
In short, this fight is a long way from over. Sigh.
The battle lines are drawn, and this page has heard ... and heard ... and heard from both camps. Some observations:
"It's not about contraception," said GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. "It's about economic liberty." It's disingenuous to say it's not about contraception. How many times have the bishops said recently that "pregnancy is not a disease"? One doubts this uproar would have accompanied a government command to provide flu vaccines.
The White House has been quick to note that 28 states already have similar measures, and eight don't even exempt churches. So why hasn't this fuss been raised before? Church leaders will forgive those who ask, as the director of the admittedly progressive Catholics United group did, whether the opposition "serve(s) the interests of a political agenda, not the needs of the American people."Even for those who believe in a strict, constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state - though all too conveniently most tend not to explore both sides of that coin - no religious organization has carte blanche. Unfortunately, in recent memory great damage was done to the church, diminishing its moral authority, when some in its hierarchy failed to recognize their obligations to notify and cooperate with civil authorities as crimes against children were committed within their ranks. No right is absolute.
  • On the flip side, Obama seemed flabbergasted and frustrated by the original firestorm. One is surprised he was surprised in this hyper-charged, hyper-partisan environment. He and others want to argue that hospitals, schools and social service agencies don't necessarily further a religious mission. That's debatable, especially in parochial schools that educate children not only in the three Rs but in the faith. The president also seems to subscribe to the myth that he can declare something "free" and magically, it becomes so. If someone is getting contraceptives for nothing, someone else - the employer, other health care consumers - is subsidizing them.
    Yes, some religious institutions already provide this coverage to employees. Doctors affiliated with Peoria's Catholic hospital can prescribe oral contraceptives for patients, though it must be made clear they're "acting separately from OSF." If some institutions are in noncompliance with the bishops' current stance, that's also an argument for letting the marketplace work. The fair counter is that but for government intervention historically, many reproductive and other health care procedures for women might never have been covered.
    One also is told that polling shows most Americans on the White House's side, that these institutions employ people of many faiths who are not obligated to subscribe to the beliefs of their employer, that 98 percent of U.S. adult women have used contraception. To which one might respond that constitutional rights are not subordinate to public opinion; that no one has a constitutional right to a job; and if that's so, what's the access problem in need of being resolved? Finally, disagreement exists on whether some of these contraceptives are abortifacients. That depends on how you define a pregnancy; there's not enough space left to get into that.
    All in all, this page continues to believe the White House overstepped at first. Beyond that, one agrees with the bishops' first-blush reaction to the compromise - later retracted - that this was a "step in the right direction." Regardless, between the "war on religion" and the "war on women" camps, there may be no bridging this divide.
    We settle political disputes in America legislatively, to be sure, but ultimately through the courts and elections. Fortunately, both those opportunities present themselves this year. We'll just have to see those processes through.

    My comment:

    I appreciate the Journal Star devoting so much time to the issue of President Obama vs. the Catholic Church and religious liberties. Legal scholars are necessary who can debate all sides of this important issue. And legislation needs to occur to settle the issue.

    Many politicians are considered sincere and many are not. Same with Catholic Bishops.

    It has seemed strange to me that the Catholic Diocese of Peoria seems to be talking out of both sides of their mouth. The Journal Star editorial this morning states that Bishops have no intention of participating directly or indirectly in any practice they consider evil.

    Does Bishop Jenky view oral contraceptive use as evil?

    Two weeks ago Bishop Jenky wrote that Catholic institutions should not have to cover oral contraceptives in their insurance plans. But at the same time, the Diocese and OSF still concur on a policy that they designed over 15 years ago which allows OSF physicians to prescribe oral contraceptives from OSF offices for OSF patients throughout the entire OSF Health Care System. And they did this to keep OSF competitive in the medical marketplace.

    The Journal Star editorial this morning states:

    Yes, some religious institutions already provide this coverage to employees. Doctors affiliated with Peoria's Catholic hospital can prescribe oral contraceptives for patients, though it must be made clear they're 'acting separately from OSF.'

    I really doubt that OSFs patients who go to their OSF doctor at an OSF office and come out with their oral contraceptives understand that OSF is not responsible for this.

    It seems to me that there is cooperation in a direct or indirect way here from the Diocese who could stop this coverage if they really wanted to. Bishop Jenky cannot tell the Sisters at OSF what color to paint Saint Francis Medical Center, but he can intervene at OSF on matters of morals and faith.

    If it means that OSF-SFMC needs to lose its tax exempt status and not accept federal funds to be a Catholic hospital more than in name only, maybe that is what should happen. It sure would take some of the pressure off of Bishop Jenky and he would not have to cooperate with evil. The Diocese may lose the financial support of OSF, but legally and morally the Diocese would be doing the right thing.

    John A. Carroll, MD
    West Peoria

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Does the Illinois Catholic Health Association Know about OSF and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria?

Officials at two major Roman Catholic policy groups expressed fears Friday that President Barack Obama's revised health insurance mandate still poses a moral quandary because it could override an exemption in Illinois law that allows Catholic institutions to avoid offering birth control to their employees.

"It forces us back into a position that we find untenable," said Patrick Cacchione, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Health Association. "We're not going to pay or provide or participate in something that we think is immoral."

My question to Mr. Cacchione is: "What do you think about OSF and the Diocese of Peoria and their policy which allows OSF physicians to prescribe oral contraceptives? Do you think that is participating in something immoral?"

Friday, February 10, 2012

Peoria Fire Department Station 20 is Paramedic!! The Fact that this is News is a Big Problem....

This article appeared on the PJS website a few minutes ago---

A second Peoria Fire Department engine is now equipped with life-saving drugs and firefighters trained to use them during an emergency thanks to a joint public-private partnership.
Engine 20 has gained Advanced Life Support Service designation and is the second engine in three years to do so, Peoria Fire Department Chief Kent Tomblin said. Engine 12 initiated the program locally three years ago.
"We respond to all emergencies in the city with basic life support," Tomblin said. "But advanced life support . . . means we can now administer life saving drugs."
The engines equipped with the systems are strategically stationed in areas where life saving potential can be maximized, Tomblin said. Additional engines may be upgraded in the future as the need arises, he added.
"We have pinpointed these areas as places where we need to get to people with life-saving drugs as quick as we can," he said.
Those drugs include treatment for coronary issues, as well as diabetes and seizures among other common, life-threatening ailments. Engine 20 in particular is well situated to deal with a higher frequency of coronary emergency calls, Tomblin said.
The upgrade has been coordinated with the city's private ambulance service, Advanced Medical Transport, which provides the drugs and training to firefighters free of charge.
"By working together, all the citizens are benefiting from it," Tomblin said. "It's good for the citizens, it's good for the hospitals, and it's good for medical care."

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or mbuedel@pjstar.com.
My comments and questions:
1.  How can this be happening? We were told for years by OSF's Dr. George Hevesy and Dr. Rick Miller and AMT's Executive Director Andrew Rand that the Peoria Fire Department needed to stay out of the paramedic business. Were they wrong? Why were they not quoted in the JS article? Hevesy, Miller, and Rand for a decade assured all Peorians that everything was good...Chief Tomblin is implying above that advanced life support is better than basic life support. Gee whiz, what is going on here?
2.  I hope AMT does not get charged with Medicare fraud again and get fined 2 million dollars by the Feds again. The three hospitals in Peoria paid $750,000 dollars a piece to pay the fine. And taxpayers  like you and me were helping paying AMT's inflated rates at the time. 
3.  And the PFD still can't transport patients to local emergency departments. That is where the real money is made. AMT does that in Peoria and makes tons of money for the transport. The patient can just wait no matter how sick or how injured they are.

4.  See this post and this post

5.  And please see this post from a few years ago.


Peoria Firefighters to be Paramedics

I heard from a good source recently that during the next four years, in order to be hired by the Peoria Fire Department, fire-fighter applicants must become Paramedics.

This is interesting.

We were told for years by our local medical powers that there was no need for the Peoria Fire Department (PFD) to provide Paramedic services. But now Engines 12 and 20 are both Paramedic 24/7. And they cover areas that Advanced Medical Transport (AMT) tells them to cover. In other words, areas where AMT Paramedics may have a slow arrival to a 911 call.

This is nice that the PFD is bailing out AMT when we were told at Peoria city council meetings that there was no need to have the PFD performing advanced life support for the people of Peoria. We were told that everything was ok.

I don't think it was ok.

Most likely AMT and the Peoria medical centers that support AMT have something financial to gain here, or the PFD would have remained at Basic Life Support with no transport rigs. (The PFD still cannot transport patients to local emergency departments...not even trauma patients whose lives depend on rapid transport.)

And now what will all the excess PFD Paramedics do when they arrive on the scene of a medical call? If they are not from Engines 12 and 20 will these PFD Paramedics be allowed to use their skills to save lives, or will they have to wait for AMT to arrive BEFORE advanced life support can be implemented for the patient in extremis?

Violation of Conscience

I wrote the following Journal Star Forum article and sent it to the Journal Star on January 1, 2012. This was published (after a small revision by me) on January 28, 2012.

Forum: Bishop's stance on contraceptives disingenuous

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There is much in the media lately regarding the Obama administration and Catholic medical centers' religious conscience. Now Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky has urged Catholics to oppose the new health law that requires insurance plans to cover contraceptives.
However, 15 years ago the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and OSF created and implemented a policy which allows OSF physicians to prescribe oral contraceptives for hundreds of thousands of OSF patients. The Diocese and OSF were not worried about exemption based on religious conscience when they constructed these moral loopholes. They were worried about OSF's bottom line as OSF purchased medical practices and hired hundreds of new physicians.
Doesn't it seem disingenuous now for Bishop Jenky to claim that the Diocese is in a religious liberty battle with the Obama administration over Catholic institutions' health plans being mandated to cover oral contraceptives?
It is time for the Diocese and OSF to decide whether OSF should remain Catholic.
John A. Carroll, M.D.
West Peoria

During the week of January 20, Bishop Jenky released a letter to the laity of the Diocese of Peoria stating how we needed to fight for religious conscience and to oppose President Obama's new mandate.

I am glad that Bishop Jenky supports the First Amendment and religious conscience, but I disagree with the Diocesan/OSF policy allowing OSF physicians to prescribe oral contraceptives. It seems like the Diocese preempted the Obama Administration by about 15 years.

Should OSF continue to be Catholic? What would happen if OSF refused to take federal funds and gave up its tax exempt status? Would OSF survive? Would OSF become more like it was when the founding Sisters established it as "St. Francis Hospital" over a century ago? Hopefully it would become a real Catholic medical center rather than a nominally Catholic medical center like it is now. And the Diocese and OSF could do away with their own oral contraceptive policy that they created which always seemed scandalous and laughable.

President Obama will probably back down some on his mandate. And some sort of loophole will be created which will allows Catholic medical centers to create an insurance rider which will provide oral contraceptives for their employees. And the Catholic Bishops will accept this in a "begrudging" fashion. And all will be just like....Peoria.

The following link is the PJS editorial from yesterday (2/9/2012).