Washington state requires that all hospitals report on and publish online their policies on reproductive health care, end-of-life care, non-discrimination, charity care, and admissions. However, according to a report by Modern Healthcare, several of the hospitals in the state have yet to meet this requirement, despite a deadline for publishing the policies this week.
Reproductive health advocates have raised concerns that a lack of transparency surrounding hospitals’ policies could prevent patients from accessing adequate health care. Rachel Berkson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, previously told RH Reality Check that the push for disclosure requirements are motivated by concerns about the ethical religious directives of religiously affiliated hospitals. “These directives are set by Catholic Bishops,” said Berkson. “These policies prevent access to contraception, reproductive health care, end-of-life care, and there are issues surrounding the treatment of LGBT families.”
The regulations were implemented by the Washington State Department of Health on January 23, and hospitals were given 60 days to become compliant with the regulations. In addition to submitting these policies to the health department, the hospitals are also required to post their policies on their websites.
Hospitals in the state opposed the regulation on the grounds that creating a list of reproductive health-care and end-of-life services would be too complex and potentially misleading.
The new rules were ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee in response to a wave of hospital mergers in which Catholic hospital associations have joined with secular hospitals, raising concerns about reproductive health-care policies. For example, the Seattle-based Swedish Medical Center
recently merged with Providence Health and Services, a Catholic hospital system, and as a condition of the merger agreed to ban elective abortion services.
According to the Modern Healthcare report, the health department has received a total of 46 policies from hospitals that have either been posted on the department’s website or are in the process of being posted. Additionally, 23 policies are being reviewed by the department, and 27 hospitals have yet to meet the requirement. Several of the hospitals that have not submitted policies include those owned by Providence Health and Services.
The department of health will send reminder notices to hospitals that have not complied with the new regulations, but the type of steps the department will take to enforce these regulations has yet to be determined.