Protest Over Proposed Ellis Hospital-St. Peter’s Merger
Community resistance to the planned merger of Ellis Hospital and St. Peter's Health Partners manifested Sunday in a demonstration in Schenectady.
St. Peter's is part of Trinity Healthcare, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. Reproductive rights advocates worry the merger, in the works for months, will compromise health care choices, especially for minority and LGTBQ residents who may not be able to afford to travel for referral care. Family practice physician Dr. Jessica Berman:
"What the coalition is asking is that there is in writing, that these restrictions that Trinity Health has, that they are not going to that the Ellis Hospital and Ellis sites are not going to be made to hold those restrictions."
Nikita Hardy is a member of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission.
"There are several things that I'm concerned about when it comes to this merger. One, we've already lost a couple of services, key core services that were being utilized by the community, and decisions that are already being had behind closed doors are impacting us. And this is just the very beginning. You know, when it comes to comprehensive reproductive care, we're looking at restrictions on contraception, tubal ligation, IVF odyssey, and sperm donation, all things that are like key reproductive care, or individual choice. We'll see some impacts on LGBTQIA+ patients, you know, these are services that people are able to make as individuals and should be able to make that will be pretty much not available."
During an online forum on the proposed merger held in March, Lois Uttley, director of the Women's Health Program at Boston-based non-profit health care advocacy organization Community Catalyst, noted that "while becoming part of the health system can potentially help a struggling hospital, Ellis doesn't seem to be struggling, and there may be some alternative to a merger."
"Increasingly, a group of large regional and national health systems is gaining control of most of the community hospitals in the whole country. My team found, for example, in 2018, that 10 large health systems had come to control 70% of all the acute care hospital beds in New York. And by the way, Trinity health was one of those."
The Daily Gazette reported last week that "Ellis Medicine’s revenue plunged from $455 million in 2019 to $402 million in 2020, and it incurred a $33 million loss for 2020," putting the merger on pause while Ellis and St. Peter's look into shared services and other options to work together. According to the paper, officials indicate the merger will likely be finalized in 2023.
Schenectady County legislator Michelle Ostrelich of District 3 heads the panel's Health and Human Service Committee. Asking officials for transparency and communication, the Democrat says she understands the financial pressures being put on Ellis.
"...and they need a partner we get it. But we're asking the administrators to listen to what the community needs, and to save our services to work very hard to make sure that if they're looking to cut services, or have already cut services, that they find providers within our community and help them expand and help them take on the burden as they've eliminated services and and also moving forward to do the same to work hard to find services within our community that can meet the needs. But really, ideally, we'd love for them to negotiate within their agreements with Trinity Health, to prevent any cuts, either policy based or for financial reasons, to ensure comprehensive science based medical care for all of our residents.”
Hardy is appealing to both organizations "...to come into this the right way. Ellis is a community hospital, that's how we see it as. It's our communal hospital, it's where I have gone, my family has gone, and this is a community decision is something that impacts every single one of us, regardless of some people's individual privileges. And I just implore them, to bring people to the table and to have these crucial conversations and to be more open, be more neighborly.”
Ellis hospital officials provided a statement in response to a request for comment:
"Discussions between Ellis Medicine and St. Peter’s Health Partners on a joint affiliation agreement are continuing and we look forward to providing our community with an update as soon as we have something meaningful to report. Ellis and St. Peter’s share a common goal of ensuring the long-term availability of high-quality health care for the people of Schenectady and the surrounding region, and believe that partnering toward that goal is the best approach for everyone. We also understand the importance of these affiliation discussions to everyone who relies on Ellis Medicine for care and we are committed to keeping everyone updated as we move along."