SLO County residents come together to share concerns over Dignity Health merger with CHI

Posted at 7:00 PM, Sep 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 22:00:03-04

Emotions running high Friday as people from across San Luis Obispo County packed into a community forum hosted by California’s Attorney General to discuss the potential merger between Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives.

CEO of French Hospital Medical Center Alan Iftiniuk gave a message of assurance to the community that the hospitals involved in the merger will not change due to CHI’s religious affiliation.

“I want to be crystal clear — there will be no reductions to any service currently provided at any catholic or other than catholic hospital,” Iftiniuk said.

But that did not ease the fears of the countless people who spoke out against this merger who believe women and those in the LGBT community could lose healthcare rights.

“To impose a faith doctrine on a secular society and again not based on science but on conjecture and doctrine – is an enormous step backward, for both individuals and families, “concerned resident Mary Powers said.

“We are concerned that our community will not have access to women’s reproductive health services, gender affirming care, invitro fertilization, or medical aid in dying – which is legal in California,” said  Andrea Chmelik of Women’s March SLO.

Several doctors from local hospitals however came to share their how this merger could help the medical community.

“By aligning with CHI, we’ll be able to share best practices and bring preventative care that addresses broad health and social needs for our community,” Juan Reynoso, Medical Director of Emergency Services for French Hospital.

But it could be the doctors and hospital staff that feel the impact of the merger the most. Forbes magazine reports CHI had over $500 million in operating losses just last year alone. Some that are against the merger fear that cost cutting  measures to improve those losses., would include layoffs and closures, Impacting jobs in our community.

Several speakers asked the attorney generals office to ensure that this agreement keeps the hospitals included in the merger open for at least 15 years as opposed to the 5 years that was previously agreed upon.

French hospital’s CEO however says they are not expecting any job losses due to the alignment.  ?

Dignity Health already manages several Catholic hospitals, like Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria.

If you’d like to weigh in on this merger, written statements are due to the Attorney General’s office by the 27th. You can email in statements to Wendi.Horwitz@doj.Ca.Gov?.