Women vow to cut GBMC endowment Board of old hospital opposes affiliation with St. Joseph

'Religious directives' cited

Panel fears abortion, reproductive services will, in time, be denied

Health care

April 27, 1998|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

The board of the Hospital for the Women of Maryland has said it will drop its financial support for Greater Baltimore Medical Center if GBMC joins St. Joseph Medical Center, its Towson neighbor.

The Women's Hospital was one of two that merged to form GMBC in 1965. The board continues to manage the endowment of the old hospital, and gives the proceeds each year to GBMC. Cynthia L. H. Crawley, president of the Women's Hospital board, said it has contributed $7.8 million to GBMC since 1987.

The other hospital that merged to form GBMC was the Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Charitable Hospital. It does not contribute directly to GBMC, but the Presbytery of Baltimore approved a resolution last month opposing GBMC's joining St. Joseph.

Speaking for the Women's Hospital, Crawley said, "In 1882, a group of women put together a facility to take care of women. That's still our mission."

But women's services, she said, would be jeopardized by an affiliation with a Roman Catholic institution, which follows a document called "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services." The directives prohibit abortion, sterilization and in-vitro fertilization, all of which are currently done at GBMC.

In a letter sent to GBMC's board last week, the Women's Hospital board said, "We do not believe that the Catholic hierarchy will easily give up the use of the Ethical and Religious Directives, and we believe that, at some point (probably sooner rather than later), the ERDs or some portion of them will become applicable to GBMC. When this occurs, services traditionally provided by GBMC will be curtailed and access to services will be reduced." GBMC officials said last month that they would discontinue abortion services if the hospital merged with St. Joseph. After objections from women's groups and others, GBMC and St. Joseph reworked their potential affiliation into a joint operating agreement rather than a merger. Both would be managed by a new company governed by a board with equal representation from the two hospitals.

Under the proposal, GBMC would be able to establish a subsidiary to provide abortion and fertility services in an office building on its campus. St. Joseph would not receive revenue from those services.

GBMC's board is expected to decide soon whether to go ahead with the St. Joseph deal or, instead, join with Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Vivienne Stearns-Elliott, director of community and media relations, said GBMC was "puzzled" by the letter from the Women's Hospital board. She said the proposed affiliation with St. Joseph would "accommodate each institution's beliefs and traditions," and allow GBMC to maintain "comprehensive women's health and reproductive services."

She said GBMC had received a number of letters and postcards -- she said she did not have a count -- expressing concerns over maintaining reproductive services. Hospital officials have met, she said, with representatives of a number of organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters and the Women's Law Center of Maryland.

The Rev. Herbert D. Valentine, executive presbyter of the Baltimore Presbytery, said he was one of those who had met with hospital officials to express concerns.

The presbytery, a regional elected body of clergy and laity, said in its resolution that GBMC should "respect the principles upon which its antecedents were founded and turn away from the merger being considered, which would betray the Presbyterian Church, which entrusted its Eye, Ear and Throat Charitable Hospital to GBMC."

Valentine said he did not believe the organizational changes, meant to permit abortion to continue, would solve the problems.

Pub Date: 4/27/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.