Islanders start petition to Group Health regarding Catholic hospitals

A group of islanders concerned about access to health care at Catholic hospitals is seeking signatures they will submit to Group Health Cooperative (GHC) for a resolution they hope will be voted on this fall.

Kate Hunter is one of those involved and says that she and other Group Heath members working on the resolution believe it is important because in much of the south Puget Sound area, members are referred to Catholic hospitals, which are governed by care guidelines known as the Ethical and Religious Directives. These directives can limit care, she said, and she and five other petition organizers want to ensure that GHC providers and patients will not have to abide by them.

“One of the things we want to emphasize is Group Health is a cooperative member organization,” Hunter said. “Members should have a say in how it is run and the care we get.”

Hunter noted that on Vashon, Group Health members are frequently referred to Virginia Mason, a secular hospital, but may be referred to a Franciscan hospital in Tacoma.

The text of the resolution calls for GHC to have written policies and procedures to ensure that all patients have ready and convenient access to the full range of sound medical practices, that medical staff will have full knowledge of potential restrictions when referring or sending patients to religiously affiliated institutions and that Group Health staff will fully inform patients about potential restrictions when they send them to those facilities.

Only people who are registered GHC voting members can sign the resolution, but anyone who is a GHC member is eligible to register, Hunter said.

As of Monday, Hunter said 100 people had signed the petition. The goal is 300 signatures, due to be mailed back to her by July 19 so she, in turn, can submit them to GHC.

Hunter noted she is cautiously optimistic that the group, which includes three members on Vashon and three members off the island, will meet that goal.

In October, GHC will hold its annual membership meeting, and the resolution, should it garner enough signatures, will be voted on then.

If it passes, Hunter says, it is her understanding that the terms of the resolution will become policy at Group Health.

Group Health members interested in the petition should contact Hunter for a copy of the resolution and signature card by calling her at 463-5117 or emailing her at



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