Monday, January 11, 2010

Sister Mary Walsh: Keeping Catholic hospitals true to their identity

 Sister Mary Walsh, a representative of the nation's bishops, shared the following on the USCCB Media Blog on January 8:

A friend just got a job in a Catholic hospital. She loves the work, and I hear with delight about the employee training program and the mission of top-flight care in a Catholic setting.

She is a receptionist, and hospital leaders know values must be conveyed by all the staff, from the first person you meet to the professional staff who hold lives in their hands.

Values that emphasize the sacredness of every person, rich or poor, coming into life or leaving it, are paramount in Catholic hospitals and right now the U.S. bishops are working hard to make sure these values will still exist under health care reform.

Catholic health care encompasses more than 600 facilities; the ministry costs about $6.7 billion annually. Yet, although Catholic hospitals are a major force, their unique nature could be threatened if the health care reform bills dismiss concerns of the bishops.

The U.S. bishops do not want an expansion of abortion and urge that the policy of the Hyde Amendment be preserved. The Hyde Amendment, first passed in 1976, precludes federal money from being used to pay for elective abortions or plans which provide coverage for them. This already is policy for several major federal health programs. The underlying principle: health care reform should not force anybody to pay for another’s abortion.

The bishops want conscience protection for institutions and individuals. Among other things, they would like to see the language of the Weldon Amendment incorporated into health care reform. Weldon, passed in 2004, prevents government bodies from discriminating against hospitals and other health care providers that do not perform, refer for or pay for abortions. Health care facilities and personnel have the right to provide care according to a value system that respects each human life. Language from the Weldon Amendment is now in the House health care reform bill and needs to be retained in final legislation.