Saturday, February 11, 2012
The Demise of the Christian Hospital
Most of them are gone. One such name continues, Lutheran Hospital of Ft. Wayne, but it is no longer a "Lutheran" institution. Its name goes on but it is owned by one of the profit making health care corporations. Apparently we would like to believe the church still ran them -- so they keep the name. Others have shifted to more generic names (Faith seems to be a common name for medical centers and hospitals these days -- less constricted than Lutheran, for example).
All who are left are not really agencies of the church as much as they are auxiliaries with various connections to the churches that once ran them (most rather distant connections or affiliations). They are heritage institutions which in large measure operate much like the quasi-governmental and for profit institutions around them.
Catholic Healthcare West, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, announced Monday it is severing its affiliation with the Catholic Church and changing its name to Dignity Health, according to Kaiser Health News. Catholic hospitals are now caught between the teaching of the church with respect to reproductive technology, contraception, and abortion services AND the dictates of the government (Obamacare). I expect it will not be long before most of them make the same choice as Catholic Healthcare West. I could be wrong. I wish I were wrong.
Medicine is BIG business today -- too big to be operated as a ministry. You have the health insurance industry designed to pay as little as possible for health care and Obamacare determined to tell the institutions what they must and can (and cannot) do. You have legalities ranging from HIPPA issues to staffing issues to what you charge and who you charge for this and that... It is just one more area in which the mercy works that were once the showcase of the Christian church are now performed largely by others who have no real interest in the faith...
I wish I had an answer.... I do not. But I do have regret and sadness that we have witnessed the demise of the Christian hospital in my lifetime. Some of the greats are gone and others are going. A few remain and more with a nebulous tie to the churches that once established them. We have a memory. I wish we had more...