[UPDATE, July 18, 2012: Abington and Holy Redeemer have called it off.]
Two weeks ago, out of the blue, two of the major health systems in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (where I live) announced they had signed a letter of intent to merge (they call it a joint venture, but they’re merging their executive officers and their boards). They even had a long but light on details press release to mark the occasion:
Abington Health and Holy Redeemer Health System today are announcing their intention to create a new regional health system. The announcement is being made after the boards of both organizations, led by Robert M. Infarinato, chair of Abington Health, and William R. Sasso, chair of Holy Redeemer Health System, authorized the signing of a letter of intent at their respective meetings of the boards of trustees.
“We are very excited to pursue our shared vision to come together in a new healthcare organization to better serve the community,” said Infarinato. “Under healthcare reform, many quality improvements depend on enhanced coordination of care, which in turn relies upon closer alignment between health systems, physicians and other providers. We believe this partnership will facilitate the collaboration that will help both organizations move toward shared goals.”
The merger was dubious to begin with, at least from Abington’s standpoint, considering that Abington Memorial Hospital generates twice the revenue of Holy Redeemer Hospital and is well-managed and profitable, while Holy Redeemer Hospital is financially struggling. And then the other shoe dropped:
Said [William R. Sasso, chair of Holy Redeemer Health System], “… By aligning these two reputable health systems, we will form a new parent company that will provide oversight and direction to enable both organizations to fulfill their mission and goals while respecting each other’s values and preserving Abington’s long-standing heritage and Holy Redeemer’s Catholic identity.”
It turned out that “respecting each other’s values” meant ‘Abington’s physicians will have to follow Catholic Church directives on healthcare,’ so that “the Catholic medical facility appears to triumph in dictating reproductive health care policy to secular Abington, eliminating abortion services, while securing chairmanship of the board.”
There’s no need for me to wade into the politics of abortion, because the reality of interference in patient care — and the risk of medical malpractice liability to Abington — is staring us in the face: