On Call with Dr. Pepe

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On Call with Dr. Pepe

Preserving Spaces for Life

At Catholic Medical Center, we’re proud of what makes our mission and culture so strong: our Catholicity. Our Catholicity is a quality that comes to life when we compassionately care for the poor, contribute to the common good, respect everyone no matter their differences and, most importantly, defend human dignity from conception to natural death. Today we are doing positive things to preserve life by creating a space for life.

What does this mean? Creating a space for life is simply starting, expanding, promoting, enhancing and collaborating in ways that make it easier to choose life rather than death. For example, CMC has a Pregnancy Care Center (PCC). This is a clinic that allows pregnant women and their unborn babies to access high quality prenatal care and maternal health care regardless of their ability to pay. Without the PCC, a mother may be left with the difficult choice of either forgoing perinatal care and placing herself and her child at risk for complications up to and including death; or choosing the grave sin of abortion. By CMC creating and slowly expanding the PCC, we create that space for life. We create a space where women can have healthy children to raise on their own or place for adoption; a space that prevents the death of children at the hands of good people who may feel they have no other choice.

Another example of creating a space for life is collaboration. As the hospital industry feels the pressure of rising expenses, lower revenue and an aging population on top of regulatory mandates and health care reform, the future is becoming more difficult and uncertain. Between 2010 and January, 2019, 95 rural hospitals closed their doors. According to Morgan Stanley, nearly 20 percent of U.S. hospitals are either failing or are weak. One result is that many Catholic hospitals are either going out of business or becoming secular or Catholic in name only.

Collaborations in today’s health care market are necessary to support and promote the mission and keep our Catholic hospital strong and, more importantly, sustainable far into the future. Not all collaborations with other Catholic hospitals make sense financially or practically. In referring to non-Catholic partners, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) states: “Collaborative arrangements can be unique and vitally important opportunities for Catholic health care to further its mission…”

At CMC, we are very careful to collaborate the right way, as with the proposed combination of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health and the system CMC belongs to, GraniteOne Health. Manchester Bishop Peter Libasci and Catholic bioethicists from the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) have been involved from the beginning of this process and will continue to be involved every step of the way. This potential agreement would ensure that CMC will be Catholic forever. The proposed combination would respect CMC’s adherence to the ERDs and the bishop’s reserved powers. CMC would be governed by a local board of trustees and managed by local leadership. The system organization would not appoint members to the CMC board and it must concede to the bishop’s decision on ERDs if there were ever a dispute between the combined system organization and CMC Healthcare System or the bishop.

Coming together when we are strong is a proactive move that allows us to better protect our Catholic identity and mission. I’ve seen what happens if a hospital becomes weak or fails. Every time a Catholic hospital goes out of business or loses its Catholic identity, the spaces for life that they have created go away forever.

We all have a duty to defend life and CMC does it by creating and defending that space. Otherwise, it may not exist.

Dr. Joseph Pepe is the president and CEO of CMC Healthcare System: Catholic Medical Center, New England Heart & Vascular Institute, and several subsidiaries. He and his wife reside in Manchester.

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