A petition to block a Catholic health system from acquiring the local hospital is gaining momentum in rural Connecticut. The coalition of residents, called Save Day Kimball Hospital, is concerned about restrictions the Catholic healthcare provider could place on gender-affirming care and reproductive healthcare, among other services.
The prospect of losing access to gender-affirming health care is an issue of particular concern to transgender and non-binary patients.
According to The Journal Inquirer, the Save Day Kimball Hospital group formed this summer to give input to state officials on the proposed ownership transfer of the hospital located in the town of Putnam. Organizers of the group said that discussions about the hospital’s future have gone on with “little to no community input.”
If the transfer is approved, the hospital would be acquired by Covenant Health, a Massachusetts-based Catholic healthcare system.
The community group has held meetings and protests calling on Connecticut officials to deny the transfer. “They argue that the Catholic church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, or ERDs, could eliminate needed services in their rural community, leaving residents with few options,” the Journal Inquirer explained.
The group’s petition, which so far has received nearly seven hundred signatures, states:
“We do not want religion to replace sound medical practice and a scientific basis for healthcare decisions. As a Catholic organization, Covenant Health will impose restrictions and prohibitions on certain aspects of the care they will deliver. These restrictions will negatively impact reproductive health care, gender affirming health care, and end-of-life care, among others. Day Kimball Healthcare employees won’t even be allowed to refer patients to those who will provide this care.”
For Day Kimball Hospital, which is struggling financially with millions of dollars of debt, the acquisition would mean a firmer economic future, plus service expansions. The hospital’s CEO has said of the protest, “Their claim is they want to ‘save Day Kimball Hospital’ — interestingly enough that’s what we’ve been trying to do all along.”
The residents who oppose the transfer, however, see the matter differently.
“I am not averse to the notion of compassionate and ethical care or to the Catholic religion itself,” one opponent of the acquisition stated. “I do object however to the imposition of one moral code on the health care of an entire population — which this acquisition would create.”
Other objectors pointed out that it is not easy for the area’s residents to access alternative facilities due to distance and expense, an issue of particular concern if Day Kimball were to restrict the range of its services under Catholic leadership.
Connecticut’s State Attorney General, William Tong, said:
“‘Day Kimball services a rural community with limited hospital choice, and we need to ensure that any new ownership can provide a full range of care — including reproductive health care, family planning, gender affirming care, and end of life care.'”
A public hearing about Day Kimball Hospital’s future will likely be held before the end of the calendar year. In the meantime, community members who object to their healthcare needs being handled by a Catholic provider are continuing to try to make their voices heard.
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, September 1, 2022