Tuesday, July 03, 2007

When Catholic Hospitals Don't Act "Catholic" - Nancy Scola

When Catholic Hospitals Don't Act "Catholic"
When I was out in Chicago last week digging into the union drive by Resurrection Health Care employees, I was struck by how very often conversations I had came back to the theme of "but these are supposed to be Catholic hospitals!" So I wrote a diary about it on Street Prophets, which is sort of the religious-flavored version of Daily Kos:

The kink in the system now is that it seems as if RHC isn't holding up its end of the deal. And I mean that in both a moral sense and a legal one. Approval of some of its mergers were contingent upon the continuation of care for the poor. Yet Resurrection acknowledged in 2004 that it had cut charity care by at least one-third. Illinois' Lieutenant Governor has accused RHC of failing to care for some poor while charging others exorbitant rates, and called on Cardinal George, the new archbishop of Chicago, to get RHC to live up to their mission. There has been one class action suit and then another, accusing Resurrection of overcharging or otherwise failing to care for the poor.

And at the same time, we have RHC employees growing fed up with the quality of care and conditions at their workplaces, and trying for years to form a union. RHC refuses to meet with them. Here again, seems like there's a great deal of daylight between how RHC is behaving and how Catholic teaching calls them to act. How's that? As much as health care is part of the church's ministry, union organizing is part of the church's teachings.

I'm still trying to think through whether it's okay (from an activist perspective) to be more upset with Resurrection than one might otherwise would be, just because they set themselves up as a Catholic organization. Anyway, there it is. (Have I mentioned here that I'm working with the AFL-CIO on the legislative push around the Employee Free Choice Act? Hmm, well, I am. And that's why I was in Chicago.)

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