7/11/12 | 393 views
Plan May Lead to Benedictine Hospital Losing Catholic Identity
A preliminary recommendation that the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley presented to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) this week could result in the secularization of Kingston’s historic Benedictine Hospital.
The July 9 proposal by the alliance, an integrated health care system that oversees Benedictine Hospital, Kingston Hospital, Margaretville Hospital and other health facilities in the Hudson Valley, would close Kingston Hospital and turn Benedictine into “a single, full service, nonsectarian community hospital in Kingston, without limitations on reproductive services.”
Both hospitals have suffered severe financial losses.
In a statement released the same day, Ms. Cynthia Lowe, chair of the HealthAlliance board of directors, said state officials “are supportive” of the organization’s preliminary plan.
“It’s apparent from our meeting that all parties are aligned in our goal for a financially viable model that preserves quality health care services in the Hudson Valley,” she said.
The closure of Kingston and consolidation with Benedictine would result in a reduction of the 300 beds currently shared between the two facilities as well as employee layoffs.
David Lundquist, CEO and president of HealthAlliance, said the decision included input from meetings with HealthAlliance board members, physicians, community members and employees.
Lundquist said HealthAlliance is preparing what is termed a “certificate of need” for the New York State Health Department. The certificate of need process, which could take up to 18 months, governs the establishment, construction, renovation and major equipment acquisitions of state health care facilities.
In 1901, the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth, N.J., founded a seven-bed hospital, Our Lady of Victory Sanitarium and Training School for Nurses and Domestics, to address “the needs of the elderly, indigent and chronically ill.” In 1906 the hospital moved to its present site on Mary’s Avenue in Kingston. At that time, the facility could accommodate 36 patients.
Today, Benedictine Hospital is a fully accredited, 150-bed acute-care facility. Four Benedictine Sisters continue to serve in pastoral care at the hospital.
During public meetings in Saugerties last month, Ms. Lowe attempted to assure questioners that the Benedictine Sisters were not being evicted. “We’re not throwing them out,” Ms. Lowe said, adding that HealthAlliance would work to continue a relationship with which the sisters could feel comfortable.
“It is sad that Benedictine will no longer be a Catholic institution,” said Sister Mary Feehan, O.S.B., secretary of the Benedictine board of directors. “We’ve been here for 111 years. But there comes a time for the greater good of the community that changes have to be made.”
Sister Mary said she was warmed by the outreach that has been extended to the sisters throughout the process, although she does not yet know what role the sisters will play in the future. She also said the hospital’s name would be changed to reflect its new identity.
But the larger issue is that it appears another hospital in the Archdiocese of New York will soon no longer be Catholic.
“Our concern is that Benedictine is losing its Catholic identity all together,” Father Carl Johnson, pastor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Port Ewen, told CNY July 10. He said parishioners had told him they were troubled that “abortions will be performed” at the historic Catholic hospital.
“We’re all concerned,” he said.
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