To the editor:
In his March 21 letter David Veterane defends the Harrison Medical Center merger with Franciscan Health Systems. His loyalty, as a former chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, is to be expected.
I have practiced and taught medicine for 30 years and strongly disagree that this affiliation is in anyone’s interests.
As a physician, it is my responsibility to partner with my patient to determine what is best for him or her. Harrison is not just a hospital, it is a large entity (Harrison Health Partners) which employs many physicians who provide care in the community. As employees of a Franciscan system, these physicians are required to follow the “Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives” as a condition of employment.
I know of no bishop or board member who should determine the care my patient receives. That is between my patient and me, and my scope of practice should be determined by the law and my skills and training, not by a religious organization.
The affiliation of Catholic-based groups with hospitals in our region is terrifying. There are now few hospitals between Bellingham and Seattle without Catholic affiliation/ownership. Harrison is the only hospital of any size serving a large area. These hospitals own large percentages of medical practices. As patients, our access to end-of-life and reproductive care has been severely restricted.
It is naive to assert that Epic, an electronic health record, is anything special. I would guess Mr. Veterane has never used it. I have, for many years, and - like all EHRs - it has strengths as well as significant weaknesses. Its greatest strength is as a billing tool. Like other EHRs, it has not been shown to either save money or improve quality of care. Furthermore, affiliating with Franciscan was not necessary to install Epic.
Major decisions in health care delivery are being made based on money and ideology. Although he means well, Mr. Veterane’s experience is in investments and it is unlikely he has ever sat with a patient in crisis. I do not believe that he or anyone else belongs in the room with us.