Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Demise of the Christian Hospital

America was once filled with hospitals affiliated with churches.  Lutheran hospital, Methodist hospital, Baptist hospital, Catholic hospital, Jewish hospital... I was born in one (yeah, I know you thought I was so old I was born in a sod hut on the prairie).  These were institutions of mercy in which the faith confessed on Sunday morning was practiced on behalf of all people.  Charity was the byword of these institutions.  Healing was not a technological achievement but the merging of medical skill and faith together as if they were both hands of God that acted in different ways toward a common goal.

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...


Anonymous said...

The same thing might happen to our
LCMS elementary schools. As costs
for salaries continue to rise, it
will not be possible for one parish
to support one school.

The answer is to have an association
of congregations in a circuit support
one school. We need to be proactive
or we will lose many schools to lack
of funding.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever noticed how the church leads the way only to have the secularists run to the front of the parade and announce they will take it from here? Then they promptly debase it. Not just hospitals and ethics but science, universities, universal literacy, relief work, and on and on. Hospitals to help the sick are great, but the secularists can improve on that and bring in abortion and euthanasia. Christian ethics are great but they can improve on that by turning us on to the will to power. Christians established the universities and the belief that God ordered the universe and that the order could be discovered for the benefit of all, but they can improve on that with post modernist rejection of truth and universal order so technology can be used by a lesbian couple to use the egg of one with the sperm of some unknown donor and have the other gestate, then break up and sue for paternity. The church promoted literacy so that all could read and understand and find truth. But they have fixed that with compulsory education and sky high costs in their in children's indoctrination camps where sex ed = contraception. The church sent missionaries and food and medical relief to foreign lands, but they can do better sending guns ammo, birth control and abortion.

Step 1 take over

Step 2 debase

Gee, I wonder what Step 3 is going to be.

Oh yeah, utopia in a brave new world.

David said...

There was a time, long ago, when religious leaders were the healers in their communities -- mainly because medicine had yet to exist. Life was horrible back then. Short, painful, and fraught with illnesses and lives cut tragically short.

The primary reasons hospitals aren't run or solely run by religious organizations are (a) clergy have no idea how to run a modern hospital -- that's not their expertise, and (b) clergy have no idea how to heal bodies -- that's also not their expertise.

Healing bodies and running hospitals are the expertise of medical science and business administration, respectively.

Horrible, isn't it? But let's consider what this arrangement has gotten you: Life expectancies have soared, cures for diseases and conditions once thought untreatable, and ways to ease the suffering of your loved ones.

I'm sorry you aren't in control anymore, but really, it's for the best.

There is one justifiable function of religion in modern hospitals today, and it is neither to run hospitals nor to heal the sick, but rather to provide comfort to people who believe in god(s), and who are struggling with their own plights or the plights of loved ones. It is a secondary function, but it can be very important to some patients.

Anonymous said...

Right David, hospitals established by the church didn't have any real doctors, just priests. Oh, wait. Hospitals in the Christian west were actually the first hospitals to actually have real medicines based on actual science. Oh and they developed cures and the scientific methods in universities sponsored by the church.

David, your argument is totally revisionist and ignores what actually happened and how western science based medicine actually developed.