Exempla sale foes warn of impact

Critics of the transfer of the hospital to a Catholic group say women’s health care will suffer in Jefferson County.

By Electa Draper
The Denver Post

Comprehensive women’s health care will no longer be available in Jefferson County next year if full ownership of Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge is transferred as planned to a Catholic health organization, critics of the plan charged Friday and Saturday.

“It can have life-threatening consequences for some patients,” said obstetrician Doug Minton. He and several other Exempla Lutheran physicians asked state Deputy Attorney General Dennis Ellis on Friday to block the sale.

“Our patients are going to suffer because of the transaction,” Minton said after the meeting with Ellis.

Attorney General John Suthers has the power to block the transfer if he determines that it would result in a material change in the purpose

Suthers has until the end of December to decide, and his staff gave no indication Friday of how they will determine it.

On Saturday, about 62 people concerned about the hospital merger showed up for a meeting held at First Universalist Church of Denver.

“Our No. 1 goal is educating those who might be affected,” said Roland Halpern, director of Compassion and Choices.

At the public meeting, a panel of experts in legal and medical matters, end-of-life choices, reproductive rights and representatives of Exempla Healthcare answered audience questions and discussed their concerns.

“What we need is substantial transition time so alternate care can be found. What we hope is that solutions are patient-centered,” said Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis, an OB-GYN at Kaiser Permanente.

The Exempla Healthcare board and medical staffs at both Exempla Lutheran and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, which also is part of the transfer, object to the $311 million sale to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System.

“The Exempla board has written the attorney general and has expressed its deep concern and opposition,” said Exempla Healthcare president and CEO Jeffrey Selberg.

Physicians say full ownership by the Sisters of Charity would limit patient services to what is acceptable under the Catholic Church’s Ethical Directives.

The Sisters of Charity organization has responded that abortions, tubal ligations and other procedures prohibited under Catholic rules are a very small percentage of total services performed by the hospitals.

“Patients are always welcome to go to another hospital,” Archdiocese of Denver spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo said.
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