by Max Brantley
Subject: Changes in health care if UAMS merges operations with St. Vincent Infirmary (if required papal approval permits it.)
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has told Roman Catholic organizations in the region to cut off their support for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer charity because it provides grants to Planned Parenthood.
“Until recently, donations to the greater Atlanta affiliate of the Komen fund did not constitute a direct cooperation with evil, because none of the money they raised went to Planned Parenthood,” Pat Chivers, communications director of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said in a statement.
Earlier this year Komen decided to halt grants to Planned Parenthood, but the charity reversed course after a public outcry. Funds from Komen helped underwrite cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers for more than 170,000 lower-income women in the last five years.
UAMS is among the current grant recipients from the Komen race in Arkansas. St. Vincent, as a condition of its merger with the publicly financed institution, would presumably not allow any "direct cooperation with evil" there — be it Planned Parenthood or similarly objectionable health services. (Not to worry about the direct connection: The local Komen affiliate provides no help for cancer screenings at the evil Planned Parenthood or any of the other family planning and women's and men's health services available there.)
Komen or no Komen grants to Planned Parenthood here, the issue sharply illustrates what the Catholic Church will tolerate from its partners.
Again: It is not a trivial or far-fetched notion to ask questions about the future of birth control pills, condoms, tubal ligations, vasectomies, emergency rape treatment, therapeutic abortions for poor women, treatment of ectopic pregnancies, in vitro programs and medical research such as stem cell research at a hospital partially funded by public money but controlled in part, maybe wholly, by Catholic church doctrine. Nor is it trivial to worry about employees — bargaining rights, protection from discrimination on account of sexual orientation and insurance coverage of preventive health care (birth control pills) — at a merged institution, once fully public and responsive in every respect to public law from FOI on down, guided by church doctrine.
UPDATE: I've put the tape recording of the portion of the meeting in which Kumpuris speaks and answers on the jump. He's taking questions from Joann Coleman, a critic of the UAMS/St. Vincent combine. Interesting quote about the 10:15 mark on the recording. Coleman was raising questions about how the merger could affect nearby War Memorial Park, street infrastructure and the like and also any relationship to the tech park. Kumpuris said the tech park, which he praised at some length, had no relationship to the hospital combination. (It occurs to me, though, that UAMS is a sponsor of the research to be done there. Would the Catholic Church permit a partnership with UAMS if it was a landlord and subsidizer of, say, stem cell research there or other medical research viewed as unacceptable doctrinally, such as improvement of birth control methods? You laugh. Don't.)
Kumpuris responded: "All St. Vincent will do is manage the hospital.
Coleman: "It would manage the hospital?"
Kumpuris: "It would manage the university hospital, not the medical school."
Coleman: "It would manage the hospital is what you're telling me."
Kumpuris: "That's right."
Tell me once again why it's ridiculous to raise questions about services to be provided by a formerly public hospital operated by an organization that must operate according to dictates sent from a church headquarters in Rome.
UPDATE: I asked UAMS for a response to Kumpuris' remarks and spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said:
There has been no change in our position. We’re not considering a merger or any scenario that would put UAMS services under the governance of another entity.
Which doesn't fully the answer the question of whether St. Vincent would share authority with a medical organization that provides all the important services I've listed that are disapproved by the church. The Atlanta action against Komen gives you a clue. Not to mention the likes of the Minnesota bishop who told the mother of a gay son that she'd go to hell if she didn't stop seeking acceptance for her child. Is it not acceptance to have a policy, as the University of Arkansas does, that forbids discrimination against people based on sexual orientation? Would a hospital operated under Catholic doctrine extend similar employee protection to people who were once covered by clear university policy?
City government wonks alert: I've also uploaded tapes of Adock and Fortson on the jump. Haven't perused them yet. Kumpuris did repeat, again, that the tech park would NOT go in any of the three residential neighborhoods originally preferred for the project, even though a consultant has criticized all the alternate sites offered.
The Kumpuris tape
The Adcock tape
The Fortson tape