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Islanders question health center merger with Franciscan Health System

Questions and answers, explanations and doubts, were rampant and loud as more than 200 islanders gathered at McMurray Middle School on Thursday, April 26, to hear about the intent of the new ownership of the Vashon Health Center.
Dianna Kielian, Franciscan Health System’s senior vice president of mission, began by explaining the advantages of the new affiliation between Highline Medical Center, the Catholic management of the Franciscan Health System and the island clinic.  She talked about serving the uninsured, Medicaid and Medicare patients as well as a new high-tech software system for keeping records.  She and the current CEO of Highline Hospital, Mark Benedum, then answered questions from the audience, who lined up to each ask a one minute question. 
The meeting began at 7 p.m with the speeches from Keilian and Benedum taking the first half hour followed by nearly two hours of questions, most of which centered on the islanders’ concerns  about the  Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services written by the leaders of the Catholic Church.  The directives state the moral stand of the church on many issues among which three seemed to be of primary interest for the audience -- abortion, contraception, and the new Death with Dignity law.
 The question asked over and over in various ways was whether the church’s position on these issues would override the traditional decision process between the physician and the patient.  Although the answer seemed to be that nothing would change from how it has been handled at the clinic in the past, the answers were ambiguous and many wondered aloud if care would begin in one way but change over time to the tenets in the directives. 
A question asked by Tim Johnson, president of the Vashon Maury Island Community Council and manager of Granny’s Attic, near the end of the meeting seemed to sum up the concerns of the audience and elicited a clear answer.  He asked if the physicians employed at the clinic would be required to sign a contract stating that they would follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services.  Keilian answered “yes.”