Jo Ann Coleman, the civic gadfly who’s been watchdogging the proposal for UAMS and St. Vincent Infirmary to form a new venture to jointly operate many clinical services, has seemingly produced a severe wrinkle in the process.
She forwards a question she sent to Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock about the combination and his brief, but direct response. St. Vincent has said all along that UAMS would be able to continue certain services viewed with disfavor by the Catholic Church, and thus by St. Vincent, an affiliate of a medical services corporation that operates in keeping with church principles. Now this:
Question from Coleman to a representative of the bishop:
Could you ask Bishop Taylor how he feels about this…how the church might react to a blended Little Rock institution, jointly governed, that included a public affiliate offering services to patients or employees which the church does not approve — birth control pills, abortion, in vitro fertilization, patient directives on end of life decisions, tubal ligations, vasectomies, morning after pill dispensation to rape victims in emergency rooms, abortion training at UAMS and more.
The response Coleman received:
Dear Jo Ann,
I will not allow any affiliation that implicates St. Vincent in any jointly governed institution that would result in our material cooperation with any of the immoral medical practices you describe.
Please keep St. Vincent in your prayers!
I have asked the bishop to elaborate as to whether “material cooperation” meant any sort of agreement with an institution that independently operated objectionable services. I’ve also asked for comments from UAMS and St. Vincent. To date, St. Vincent has indicated the bishop would likely approve of the combination as envisioned by St. Vincent.
You might recall that Bishop Taylor stepped into another hospital combine, objecting to the proposed sale of Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs to Capella Healthcare, which owns the National Park Health Center, in part because the merged hospital could offer abortion and sterilizations.
Comment from UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor:
We have tried very hard throughout this process not to speak on behalf of SVI or to comment on religious beliefs. Both institutions have agreed that one of the pillars of any affiliation will be to respect each others scope and mission. If an affiliation is forged, UAMS will continue as a public institution with programs needed to train our students and serve the people of Arkansas.
Coleman offers an opinion in the context of the draft term sheet released yesterday guiding the potential UAMS/St. Vincent network collaboration: