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  • Hospital merger to be pitched in Ashland

    Presentation to City Council not a public hearing; comments will be taken Nov. 6
  • ASHLAND — The Ashland Community Hospital Board of Directors will give a presentation to the City Council Tuesday about a proposed merger with San Francisco-based Dignity Health.
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  • ASHLAND — The Ashland Community Hospital Board of Directors will give a presentation to the City Council Tuesday about a proposed merger with San Francisco-based Dignity Health.
    The meeting, which is not a public hearing, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
    The City Council plans to accept public comments on the merger Nov. 6, when it will consider whether to approve an affiliation agreement between ACH and Dignity Health. The council also would have to approve a lease agreement.
    The merger has generated mixed reactions.
    Some people have said it's necessary to ensure that a hospital keeps operating in Ashland. Others have raised concerns that Dignity Health, a chain of hospitals with past ties to the Roman Catholic Church, could restrict women's reproductive services and the rights of terminal patients to get lethal prescriptions to end their lives.
    Dignity Health's Statement of Common Values says that physician-assisted suicide is not part of Dignity Health's mission.
    According to a fact sheet prepared for the council, physicians who are employees of Dignity Health may not prescribe medications to end life.
    They may refer patients to physicians who offer that option.
    Independent physicians with privileges at the hospital may prescribe end-of-life medications.
    "Dignity Health-affiliated hospice programs may provide services to patients who opt for aid-in-dying," the fact sheet added.
    Dignity Health's Statement of Common Values says that direct abortion is not performed, and reproductive services that involve conception outside a woman's body, including in-vitro fertilization, will not be provided.
    According to the fact sheet, Ashland Community Hospital doesn't provide abortions. That would continue if the hospital affiliates with Dignity Health, although if the life of the mother is threatened, an abortion may be performed, the fact sheet states.
    The hospital does not offer in-vitro fertilization.
    The fact sheet states it is vital to keep Ashland Community Hospital operating in town because of the health care services it provides and because of its economic impact.
    "With 400 employees, ACH is the third-largest employer in the city of Ashland and has the largest average wage," the fact sheet states, adding that wages total $25 million annually.
    According to Ashland Fire and Rescue Fire Chief John Karns, if the hospital in town closes, it would take half an hour for ambulances to transport patients to hospitals in Medford, compared with just minutes for ambulance trips within Ashland.
    In a news release recently, city officials said Dignity Health has agreed to retain all current hospital employees.
    Dignity Health also has agreed to provide at least the same level of charity care as has been provided by Ashland Community Hospital.
    To read more details in the fact sheet, see tinyurl.com/9fybnrv.
    For a complete list of agenda items, see www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=15181.
    Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.
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