Kingston’s HealthAlliance is in dire straits. We have two hospitals. We can support one. Some are looking to the the Church for support on this front, but substantial help is not forthcoming.
There is no question that the Catholic Church does a great deal of good work. But, as an internet commentator to today’s story in the Kingston Daily Freeman points out, if they really wanted to keep Benedictine open and operating as a Catholic hospital, it is well within their ability. The problem here is that it is not within their will. If it was, we would not be having this discussion.
The Church has always had the choice to financially support Benedictine. Before the Kingston HealthAlliance merger, the number of Religious Order employees working there had been reduced to 4 Sisters. Since the merger, they have had ample warning and opportunity to bridge the budget gap. Instead, they forced the Hospital Alliance to fund, build, and maintain a physically separate ambulatory surgery facility, all to salve the collective conscience of a religious organization. Otherwise, why would Timothy Cardinal Dolan say, “We will continue to attempt, at least temporarily, to keep the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center where it is presently located.” Why would it matter where abortions are performed? A better response would be, ‘we will do everything within our power to keep your Catholic institutions solvent, and allow the people of Kingston and Ulster County the Benedictine option if their consciences and choices lead them there”.
We now have yet another opportunity for the Church, by a large infusion of cash, to save two hospitals, a large number of jobs, and minister to a great number of people of all faiths that otherwise will go without. They can, but, for whatever reason, will not. This is a business decision taken by the Church authorities, they have plainly said so, and anti-abortion activists, at least those that follow the Church, might follow the lead of their officials and just accept that this newly secular institution will comply with the laws of New York and the United States of America. The Church’s inaction has spoken louder than their words.
I am not anti-Catholic. I attended Catholic schools from grade 1 through undergrad. My degree is from a Catholic university. My bride and I celebrated our beautiful wedding in a New Year’s Eve mass. My children were baptized into the Church, and attended Religious Education. From childhood through my adult life, I have been the grateful recipient of good and charitable works of institutions and people of the Catholic Church, Benedictine Hospital and its Sisters included.
I have read that some plan to go to Rhinebeck’s Northern Dutchess. I have been there. It’s fine. But, it’s also at least 20 minutes away by car. Vassar Brothers and Saint Francis in Poughkeepsie are even further. Many people don’t have that luxury, either in time, economics, or transportation. And, believe me, the wait time in Kingston’s emergency rooms are nothing at all when compared to Poughkeepsie. But, those issues are red herrings, when we consider the stakes
Here we are, at the crossroads of what we want and what we do. What are we going to do, now that the plan is set. All indicators point to a done deal, no matter what we feel. Both hospitals will officially close, and the Benedictine campus will reemerge as the only one in this part of the county. But, we will still have choices. Do we abandon Kingston, or do we use our remaining resouces? Are we going to stop begging the Church to save us? Can we stop blaming the HealthAlliance board for troubles we had before they came? Or, do we start to make some positive changes ourselves? Now is the time for creative thought and action, not wishing, whingeing, and whining.
The alternative to one secular hospital is no hospital at all. Mayor Gallo’s bold attempts to lure a medical college to the closing Kingston Hospital will certainly turn to dust if there is no where to practice and learn. Private practices will become even scarcer. Nursing students will have fewer options, locals will lose their jobs, and this part of Ulster county will become far less attractive to potential residents. Our home values will fall dramatically.
What if we throw our financial support behind whatever hospital results from this process? We can still go to our doctors here. They maintain privileges at the local hospital. We can patronize the hospital here, the one that employs so many of our friends and neighbors. If they get enough business, they can hire more. We have the opportunity to vote with our dollars, and say that we want and need a viable, active, full-service hospital here.
Maybe in this case, people of Kingston and Ulster County can stop worrying about who performs what procedure and where, and start ministering to the people in this area, and try to make whatever hospital results from this process the best hospital we can manage. How you participate is up to you.