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CHI Franciscan, Seattle-based Virginia Mason merge to run 11 hospitals together

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan, a Catholic nonprofit, and Seattle-based Virginia Mason announced they are merging to form Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

Together, the new partnership will run 11 hospitals in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area, along with nearly 300 clinics and other care centers.

In a press release, the newly-formed group stated that patients would remain with their same care providers and same insurance plans.

The announcement last summer that Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan were contemplating merger has drawn concern from groups like the ACLU, which told KIRO Radio it feared that CHI’s religious affiliation would put a stop to certain health services.

ACLU concerned by Virginia Mason, CHI Franciscan merger plan

“Time and time again, we see in Washington state, when these mergers between religiously affiliated entities occur with secular organizations, the secular entity normally stops providing certain reproductive and end-of-life care,” said Leah Rutman, Health Care and Liberty Counsel with the ACLU of Washington. “And there may also be prohibitions on LGBTQ-related care.”

CHI told KIRO Radio that facilities run by the merged group will not offer abortions or physician-assisted suicide, both of which are considered contrary to Catholic teaching.

However, they did note that doctors would help patients to access those services elsewhere.

“Physicians should continue to exercise their professional judgment with patients and discuss all treatment options,” CHI said in an email. “If a patient seeks services the organization does not offer, we will ensure processes are in place for patients to seamlessly and easily access those services in our community.

The group added that all other women’s health services offered by Virginia Mason would remain in place — including medically-necessary abortions in which the mother’s life is at risk, and access to birth control. Additionally, all LGBTQ care offered currently at Virginia Mason will still be available.

The email also noted that Virginia Mason “conducted a very limited number of direct elective pregnancy terminations and did not conduct physician-assisted death at its hospital.”

Last fall Yakima Memorial Hospital cut ties with Virginia Mason, just a few months after the potential merger was first announced. The merger would have meant that, according to the ACLU, more than 70 percent of hospital beds in Yakima were in religious-affiliated organizations.

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