Acquisition of Utah hospital raises concerns over access to reproductive health care

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Five hospitals in Utah, recently acquired by a nonprofit Catholic-affiliated health care system, are performing elective abortions, vasectomies, and tubal ligations to meet the new owners’ “ethical and religious directives.” , in vitro fertilization, and other reproductive health services.

Once the acquisition is complete, the move could mean five fewer Utah treatment facilities seeking reproductive health care services in 2024. The law will close six of his abortion clinics in the state and move such care to hospitals.

However, it is unclear whether reproductive health care options are actually lost in these five hospitals. Steward Health Care, which now operates the Salt Lake Regional Medical Center and his four other Wasatch Front facilities, declined to comment on whether the hospital already offers such care.

Centura Health, which is acquiring the hospital along with co-operating sponsor CommonSpirit Health, declined to comment on whether bringing the facility under its umbrella would result in changes to access.

Also, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services does not have a “mechanism” to track procedures provided by hospitals. “The list is long and subject to change at any time,” spokeswoman Charla Haley said.

Lack of transparency leaves consumers without the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about where to do business in Utah, unless the facility voluntarily discloses that information. It means that there is a possibility

[Help The Tribune investigate: Have you been treated in the last three years at a Steward hospital?]

Colorado legislature asks hospitals to disclose information

(RJ Sangosti | Denver Post via AP) Press conference in the West Foyer of the Colorado State Capitol on Thursday, March 9, 2023 to media in support of a series of bills to protect abortion and reproductive rights. Colorado Rep. Briana Titone speaking in Denver.

Colorado lawmakers last month proposed a law that would increase transparency about the services and procedures that hospitals in the state choose to restrict.

Colorado’s bill would create a system that would require hospitals to disclose services they are not providing to patients “for non-medical refusals.”

The bill was drafted after Centura and Common Spirit quietly curtailed access to reproductive health care at Durango’s only hospital with a maternity unit, the Colorado Sun reported.

One of its sponsors, Democratic Colorado Rep. Kyle Brown, told the Tribune that the bill read “troublesome” reports of people showing up at institutions to receive certain treatments and being turned down. said to have been created later.

Without this proposed law, patients have no way of knowing what health care to expect unless the hospital or doctor discloses it. and give birth to the baby there.

Brown and another sponsor, Colorado Rep. Briana Titone, said, “I believe it provides a minimum level of consumer protection that people should know before going to the hospital, regardless of whether the service is provided or not. We worked together to create some legislation that they think will provide what they need,” he said.

The bill states that keeping this information secret “violates the basic principle of informed consent,” including increased costs for consumers and impacts on quality of life from injury, disability, and death. He said it could have long-term effects. He said Colorado’s hospital system, including CommonSpirit, has supported their efforts.

But Utah DHHS currently has no plans to track the types of procedures hospitals in the state perform, said Haley, a spokesperson for the agency.

“At this time, we have no intention of changing the hospital licensing process,” Haley wrote in an email. “Licenses do not track procedures taken at licensed facilities.”

What the medical system that bought Steward Hospital said

(Trent Nelson | Salt Lake Tribune) West Jordan’s Jordan Valley Medical Center is one of five Wasatch Front hospitals currently being acquired by the Catholic-affiliated healthcare system. Services that include vasectomy and in vitro fertilization.

It remains unclear whether Utah’s Steward Hospital currently offers abortion services, surgical contraception, in vitro fertilization, or other procedures normally restricted by the Catholic healthcare system. 5 hospital websites do not mention the procedure.

One of the facilities, the Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, recently closed its maternity ward in September. The other four include Davis Hospital and Medical Center (Layton). Jordan Valley Medical Center (West Jordan); West Valley City campus of Jordan Valley Medical Center. and Mountain Point Medical Center (Lehi).

When asked about the current offerings, Josie Martin, vice president of strategic communications for hospital systems, said:

The answer will become clearer once the hospital is officially acquired by Centura and CommonSpirit later this year.

Centura and CommonSpirit Health have not responded to The Tribune as to which procedures they restrict, but the latest copy of the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services” states: increase. service.

The Directive defines abortion as “the direct intended termination of a pregnancy before it becomes viable or the direct intended destruction of a viable fetus”. It further states that “any procedure whose only immediate effect is to terminate a pregnancy before viability is abortion, and in its moral context includes the period between conception and implantation of the embryo.” increase.

Under these directives, CommonSpirit also bans services such as surgical contraception, in vitro fertilization, gender reassignment surgery and physician-assisted suicide, according to Healthcare Dive, which reports on the healthcare industry.

In a written statement, the medical system told the Tribune:

“As a non-profit, faith-based health care system, we bring new clinical treatment options to our patients, work with our communities to have a profound impact on the future of medicine, and provide care guided by Catholic values. “This includes a commitment to serving the poor and vulnerable and holistic care for the whole person,” the statement continued.

In a statement, patients and providers said “there will be no change to the services offered” prior to the closing of the acquisition.

“We first plan to work with caregivers and other key stakeholders on how to best serve the needs of our communities,” the statement continued, adding, “Our mission and values. provide care consistent with

What procedures do Utah hospitals disclose?

The Tribune contacted other hospital systems in Utah to try to figure out what treatments they were offering and what they weren’t. Intermountain Health, University of Utah Health and MountainStar Healthcare declined individual interviews and responded with a statement from the Utah Hospital Association, which represents the policy interests of hospitals statewide.

Jill Bicory, association member and vice president of community affairs, said while Utah hospitals generally don’t offer elective abortion, their select health care system does offer surgical contraception and in vitro fertilization. She added that she also offers some gender reassignment surgeries for adults. Governor Spencer Cox later signed the bill into law.

Bickory noted that these hospitals do not offer physician-assisted suicide, which is not legal in Utah.

As to how Utah’s hospitals will adapt to new laws that will transfer abortion services to hospitals next year, and whether providers have any concerns, Bickory said each of Utah’s health systems is committed to passing the bill. “We have to decide how to respond,” he said.

Only 1% of abortions performed in Utah in 2020 were performed in a hospital, according to new data. “All hospitals in Utah are subject to state law,” Bickory later added.

Intermountain Health, which operates about half of the state’s hospitals, provided additional information on its website, saying it currently limits elective abortion procedures to pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. to law enforcement”), or two maternal-fetal medicine subspecialists determine that the fetus will not survive “to or beyond birth”.

While the University of Utah’s Healthy Family Planning website said earlier this month that clinicians “offer a full range of contraceptive and abortion services,” Kathy Willets, director of media relations, said they confirmed that it does not offer elective abortion and said the system would be updated. Its website to reflect that. “We offer abortion services and all contraceptive services,” it said.

Two of the state’s Lifepoint Health hospitals, Castleview Hospital in Price and Ashley Regional Medical Center in Vernal, do not mention abortion services on their websites, and spokespeople declined a request for comment.

fix • March 27, 3:25 PM: Story updated with corrected hospital description in Durango, Colorado.

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