Community

Group to host follow-up health care meeting

Vashon HealthWatch, the island group that organized last month’s well-attended meeting with representatives from the Franciscan Health System and Highline Medical Center, will hold another public meeting tomorrow.

The Franciscan system now operates the Vashon Health Center. Previously,  Highline had administered the clinic for more than a decade, but sought a partner because of financial strains and ultimately affiliated with the Franciscans.

The Franciscans, however, are part of a large Catholic system, and critics have voiced concerns about the influence of Catholic theology on health care on Vashon and beyond, particularly regarding reproductive health and end-of-life issues.

At April’s meeting, several islanders expressed interest in continued involvement with the issue, said Kate Hunter, one or the meeting’s organizers, and members of the group believe it’s time to have a follow-up conversation.

“We feel obligated to keep people informed and maybe take action,” Hunter said.

At tomorrow’s meeting, islanders can apply to be part of a Vashon health care oversight committee being organized by  island activist May Gerstle, and Hunter will speak about organizing at the state level, she said. All people are welcome, Hunter noted, and organizers hope to  hear people’s ideas related to Catholic-controlled health care.

“We want to be open to ideas people bring to the meeting,” Hunter said. “Other people may have bright ideas we have not thought of.”

She also noted that Vashon HealthWatch wants to be true to its name and pay close attention to health care at Vashon’s clinic, even though officials say services will remain unchanged.

“We want to watch and see what happens at the clinic,” she said. “Will people be denied services?”

Possibilities for how to do this may also be discussed.

According to Hunter, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington had hoped to attend and address Catholic health care mergers statewide, including the recent announcement of the affiliation between PeaceHealth and the University of Washington. She is not able to attend because of a scheduling conflict, but Hunter said she will poll people at the meeting to gauge interest in inviting her at another time.

The meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Chautauqua Elementary School. For more information, call Kate Hunter at 463-5117.

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