You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 8:20 a.m.

Merger into Catholic based system has hurt reproductive services at Chelsea Hospital

By Guest Column

In May of 2008, I wrote an opinion piece published in the now defunct Ann Arbor News commenting on an anticipated merger between Chelsea Community Hospital, a not-for-profit community hospital, and St. Joseph Mercy Health System, a Catholic not-for-profit healthcare system that is part of the larger Trinity Health, a seven-state Catholic healthcare organization.

I opined that, contrary to the reporting done by The News in two previous articles, the merger of Chelsea Community Hospital with a Catholic healthcare organization might not be in the best interests of all the citizens of Chelsea, and in fact might be harmful to the health and welfare of those residents seeking reproductive healthcare services.

There were two responses to that piece: both responses ignored the central tenet of my essay entirely, instead asserting that reproductive healthcare was not an essential healthcare service in the first place and accusing me of being a Nazi in the second.

Since May of 2008, the merger between the two institutions has been completed. As predicted, there have been substantial changes to Chelsea: most references to “infertility evaluations, and surgical options” are gone from Chelsea’s web site. A call to the gynecology clinic at Chelsea revealed that neither men nor women can have a sterilization procedure in the hospital, and that prescriptions for emergency contraception (EC) might be obtained from providers in their offices, but certainly not at the hospital.

Surprisingly, “family planning” is still listed on the Web site, but I surmise this is an oversight since the provision of these services is expressly forbidden by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, the document that controls the provision of any healthcare service within a Catholic organization.

So why does any of this matter, anyway?

The Catholic Church controls a huge and growing slice of the health care pie as evidenced by the following numbers: the 600 Catholic hospitals represent an estimated 12 percent of the total US hospitals, which received $45 billion in public funds, and treat 1 in 6 Americans annually. In 2003, Ascension Health, the largest Catholic system in the United States remarkably brought in total revenue of $10.04 billion. And of course in the most recent past, we witnessed a dramatic tour de force of the influence of Catholic healthcare in the recent Congressional debate over healthcare reform resulting in the Stupak-Pitts amendment, potentially eliminating abortion services for women covered by the plan. The scope of Catholic healthcare in the nation’s healthcare system is daunting to say the least.

Ever since the 1965 and 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Griswold vs. Connecticut and Eisenstadt vs Baird, established a basic right to unfettered access to medically accurate contraceptive services, the need for these services has grown exponentially. Forty years after the introduction of the oral contraceptive pill, women, and men worldwide, rightly consider reproductive healthcare services as central to their well-being.

Poor and low-income women bear a disproportional brunt of mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals as they rely on such hospitals for much of their healthcare needs compared with affluent women. Geography (in the case of rural women) and economics or both restrict their choice of healthcare institution to Catholic hospitals with the resultant abandonment of their reproductive needs, this in the face of the overt mission of Catholic hospitals and in the words of the mission statement of Trinity Health, “…to heal body, mind and spirit, to improve the health of our communities and to steward the resources entrusted to us.”

Hypocrisy such as this does little to further the public good. Mergers between secular non-profit hospitals such as Chelsea and Catholic hospital systems that result in the elimination of vital healthcare services must not be allowed to proceed. There is clear precedent for a “divorce” between unequal partners such as these, as many merged systems have un-merged to better provide needed care to their constituent patient population. Chelsea Hospital and the people of Chelsea would be well served to do the same.

Michael I. Hertz, an Ann Arbor resident, is medical director of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan and an associate clinical professor with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.



Sun, Mar 7, 2010 : 9:42 p.m.

Thank you, Michael. I could not have said it better. Since the merger I refuse to utilize Chelsea Hospital for ANY reason due to their new policies. I am a "fallen away Catholic"....I know what the church is about. You should check out how much money and property the Vatican has...The Church is into wealth and control.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

My question for those defending this merger is simple, Do you approve of the Trinity Health practice of denying treatment to women who present at their ER with ectopic pregnancies?


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 4:04 p.m.

Snapshot, I did not imply in anyway that the PATENT needed to disclose statisitics but the writer of the article. Let me make it simple for you, If in the few years there were zero requests for abortions, sterilizations or morning after contriception and the hospital decided to no longer offer such service than it makes economic sense, why have staff and supplies arround for a servie no one is asking for. If there were a fair amount of request for these services in the last few years to justify the staff and supplies, you may have a point. My point is that we have no idea what the case is becasue the auther decided to put forth an opinion without an facts to back it. No ones name or information is required-just the numbers. Without the fact no one, especially not the author can make a educated opinion of the situation at chelsea community hospital. As for Marylea, if you look at the opinions expressed in not only this article but also other in the, ie the article on UM new athletic director, there is definatly a strong anti catholic biases expressed in these forum. I wonder if the commentors would do the same if you subsituted Jewish or Islamic for catholic or word of God. By the way, I'm not a member of any of those religious traditions but I do have a respect for all people of faith.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 1:49 a.m.

The abortion movement in this country was started by Margaret Sanger, the founder of an organization known today as Planned Parenthood. Ms. Sanger was quite open that she wanted "more children from the fit, less from the unfit." The unfit, she made clear, were blacks and poor whites. She had no qualms about speaking to as many as 12 Ku Klux Klan meetings. As I discuss in the new film, "Maafa 21: Black Genocide in 21st Century America", she targeted blacks in her eugenics-based campaigns. - Dr. Alveda King


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 6:59 p.m.

It's not difficult to see why Dr. Hertz would weigh in on the matter of restricting access to "reproductive services" given his role as the medical director of Planned Parenthood. It is his job to promote such "services" and to increase their availability. On the surface, his argument may be persuasive. How "unfair" of Catholic Hospitals to restrict people from receiving "reproductive services". Dr. Hertz makes a very civilized and grownup sounding argument, although a superficial one. It's a stretch, to argue that those services that he considers as "essential" and "vital" include sterilization and abortion procedures. "Vital" is not the word many would use to describe them. It's also hard to see how the merger between Chelsea Community Hospital and St. Joseph Mercy Health System would be, as he suggests, "harmful" to the local residents. That's a bit melodramatic. As others have noted, "reproductive services" are readily available at other nearby locations. Lastly, the implication that the Catholic Church "controls" a growing portion of health care misconstrues the truth. The Catholic Church is made up of the people who call themselves Catholic. If a large portion of health care services are being provided by the Catholic Church, I would propose that they are being offered by Catholics themselves. Although it might cause concern for those who promote procedures that are contrary to life, for many who are truly sick, the Catholic Church's longstanding affiliation as a helper and healer in time of need is a comfort. The Catholic Church provides considerable care to the sick and relief services to the needy, not just in Michigan, but around the world. Our mission as Catholics is just as you cite from Trinity Health: "to heal body, mind and spirit, to improve the health of our communities and to steward the resources entrusted to us." I find that a pretty noble objective. Here are a few more details about Trinity Health: MISSION We serve together in Trinity Health In the spirit of the Gospel To heal body, mind and spirit To improve the health of our communities and to steward the resources entrusted to us. VISION Inspired by our Catholic faith tradition, Trinity Health will be distinguished by an unrelenting focus on clinical and service outcomes as we seek to create excellence in the care experience. Trinity Health will become the most trusted health partner for life. CORE VALUES Respect Social Justice Compassion Care of the Poor and Underserved Excellence GUIDING BEHAVIORS We support each other in serving our patients and communities. We communicate openly, honestly, respectfully and directly. We are fully present. We are all accountable. We trust and assume goodness in intentions. We are continuous learners.

delete this profile

Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 11:09 a.m.

Catholic hospitals do provide "vital healthcare services" and sorry, but abortions and sterilization services do not fall into this category. People seeking these types of services have plenty of other options in the area. Would the Dr. prefer that there be no Catholic hospitals? He states that 1 in 6 people are treated at Catholic hospitals annually. Who would step up to fill this void if these hospitals closed?


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 11 a.m.

Do males even need to go to a hospital for sterilization procedures? I thought all that was done outpatient. But really, it's a not-for-profit Catholic organization so I guess it's their right to refuse to do certain procedures. Just as most abortion doctors don't perform late-term abortions, there are those who do. Sometimes you just have to look elsewhere for what you want done.

Michigan Reader

Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

"...the merger of Chelsea Community Hospital with a Catholic health-care organization might not be in the best interests of all the citizens of Chelsea..." The merger of the two hospitals was intended to be in the best interests of the two hospitals. A win-win for both. You think the patients interests come first? They don't. The doctor must be trained first, a hospital must be financially sound first, the professor must be educated before he can educate. With this merger, both hospitals gained resources for their benefit.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 6:39 p.m.

I see your point RCP. Since the folks seeking these services refuse to do so publicly for your scrutiny, then there is no problem denying them access. Kind of like the Salem witchcraft test. Tie a heavy rock to the accused, and drop them in deep water. If they drown, they're innocent, if they escape, they're a witch. Love that old time religion!


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 6:05 p.m.

I am sure that many people choose to use Doctors and facilities at Chelsea and I am sure there are many residents of Chelsea who choose to use U of M hospitals for a variety of reasons. I also don't claim to speak for all of the residents of the area that the Chelsea hospital serves. However as one of those lower income people you speak of I can tell you there are a variety of ways to travel to Ann Arbor without a car, such as the WAVE bus for one, to seek non essental medical services. My comments were not that the services mentioned shouldn't be available to someone who seeks them but more to the fact that this is a total non issue in the town he claims to be speaking for. Lets look at the facts...How many sterilizations were preformed at Chelsea Hospital before the takeover? How many people came into the hospital asking for the Day after pill? What services are offered under the family planning banner at Chelsea community hospital? I couldn't tell you. But if I was writing a public opinion letter to be published I would hope I would have those facts and make them available. Instead a blanket generalization is made about an important part of our community. Trust me, I live, work, shop, eat and talk to the people who are most influenced by coverage of Chelsea Hospital, his concerns have never been voiced. As for the comparison with the Buck pole, it might seem like apples and oranges to you but for a lot of people its just another symptom of the attitudes and values of AnnArbor being pushed on them.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:55 p.m.

I think I can understand basic bob and rcp. If you're going to infringe upon freedoms you disagree with by limiting access then there would be no issue with continuing the infringment upon speech. I think your opinions should be limited to Catholic Digest. How's it feel to always have God on your side?


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:22 p.m.

@rcp. You ask of Dr. Hertz why he involves himself in the goings on of a community he himself does not belong to. Are Chelsea residents the only people who use the services at Chelsea Hospital? I live in Ann Arbor and both our family physcian and my daughter's and my OB/GYN practice from Chelsea Hospital. I know many other people outside of the Chelsea community who's doctors are based at Chelsea Hospital or have received services ther for various reasons. Just as, I am sure, there are folks in Chelsea (Dexter, Saline, etc) who have made use of the health care services at the University of Michigan Hospital. I highly doubt that every single person living in Chelsea shares the same opinions/beliefs etc...when it comes to family planning and so if the hospital wants to effectively serve ALL the people in the community it should comprehensively present ALL of the options available. And yes, I do understand that this is a Catholic based health care system. People who may not have the option of traveling outside the community (ie: lower income people who may not have transportation to Ann Arbor) and are therefore required, out of neccessity, to go to Chelsea Hospital, deserve the same range of family planning options that may be available elsewhere. And finally, comparing health care systems to the buck pole is really apples and oranges.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 4:36 p.m.

A question to Dr. Hertz, Your Bio under your tag line states that you are an Ann Arbor resident. So why are you involving yourself in the goings on in community that you don't belong to? Your community has plenty of access to serilizations, aboortions and family planning. If those services become infringed upon in your community-feel free to editoralize to your hearts content. Let the people in the community affected speak out if they feel put upon. Chelse, Dexter, Manchester ect are NOT bedroom communities of AnnArbor that need the opinions of those NOT living there to form there policies. Weither it's the chelsea hospital or the Dexter buckpole it amazes me how the people of ann arbor feel like they can force there values and opinion on communities not there own.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

I don't see the hypocrisy in a Catholic hospital openly following their own ethical code. I don't agree that this restricts a woman's choice or access to abortion and voluntary sterilization, as long as one can find these procedures performed in clinics or hospitals with a different ethical code. No one must cross state or national boundaries for safe and legal birth control. Whether or not one views these procedures as an essential element of *reproductive health care* or *vital* is a personal decision.