To the editor:
In the March 14 letter to the editor from Richard Baker entitled, “Stop mergers that limit health care” he alleges that medical care at Harrison Medical Center has been negatively impacted by its affiliation with Franciscan Health System. That allegation is far from the truth.
As the former chairman of the Harrison Medical Center Board of Directors and a resident of Bainbridge Island, I was intimately involved in the decision to select Franciscan Health System as our affiliation partner. Franciscan was selected from the other candidates because they share our vision, values and culture as a medical center.
Just as it was established nearly 100 years ago, Harrison remains a secular, nonprofit medical center with its own community Board of Directors. Franciscan has a corporate structure such that Harrison is not subject to the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care.
The same reproductive care and end-of-life services that were offered prior to the affiliation are available today, despite Mr. Baker’s assertions to the contrary.
It’s important that the community understand that it has been Harrison Medical Center’s long-standing policy not to perform elective abortions (in fact, elective abortions are rarely if ever performed in hospitals). As well, Harrison’s end-of-life care practices include in-depth considerations with patients and their loved ones on a myriad of factors, including pain management, palliative care, honoring advance directives and promoting hospice care.
While Harrison voluntarily decided not to participate in physician-assisted suicide long before seeking an affiliation partner, we help our patients consider all end-of-life options before them. In fact, Franciscan is the region’s leader in end-of-life care and this partnership will help improve Harrison’s ability to address our health needs in this area long into the future.
Another benefit to our community will be the installation of the “gold standard” in electronic health records systems, called Epic, later this year. Our physicians and nurses will have patient clinical information at their fingertips. It’s also this investment that is enabling Harrison’s expansion on the Island, bringing 24-hour urgent care, and a multi-specialty campus for the first time, ever.
I know first-hand that Harrison Medical Center’s services are first-rate and their doctors, nurses and staff are some of the most caring and dedicated people I’ve ever met.
I understand that there are some in our state and on Bainbridge Island that have concerns about secular hospitals joining with Catholic health systems. However, facts are important and the truth is that Franciscan Health System is an excellent partner for Harrison and will help ensure it continues to make a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors for generations to come.