We are writing to support an important and urgent matter impacting the health of our community: the threatened closure by Ascension Health of acute-care services at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Providence is an important health care institution serving primarily the eastern half of the nation’s capital and its closure would put the health of thousands of struggling D.C. residents at risk. We ask that you stand with us, and the thousands of registered nurses, doctors, hospital workers, social justice advocates and community members who have similarly spoken out, to keep Providence Hospital open as a fully functioning hospital with acute-care services because, as Pope Francis said, "Health care is not a consumer good, but a human right, and access to health care cannot be a privilege."
Providence provides critical and life-saving care to communities that are largely low income, people of color and the elderly. According to the D.C. Department of Health, 50 percent of the patients who receive care at Providence are insured through Medicaid, while another 30 percent are insured through Medicare. Wards 5, 7, and 8 represent the most economically challenged in D.C., and these are the wards from which Providence serves the largest percentage of its patients.
With only one other acute-care hospital, United Medical Center, located on the east side of D.C., which itself is relatively small and slated to be downsized, we cannot afford to lose any more hospital services in this part of the city. Last year we saw what can happen when Providence shuttered its labor and delivery unit, denying services to pregnant women and forcing other hospitals to deal with the reverberations. That this happened in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis in the District of Columbia is all the more galling. Pregnant African-American women in Washington, DC are dying at a higher rate than pregnant women anywhere else in the nation. Infant mortality in Ward 8 in southeast D.C. is more than double the national average, at nearly 15 deaths per 1,000 live births. Notably, the infant mortality rate just a few miles away in the wealthiest of D.C.’s wards is just 2.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Emergency care will also suffer if Providence is allowed to close. In the period 2014 through 2016, the number of emergency room visits at Providence Hospital increased by more than 25 percent for a total of 142,000 ER visits. If Ascension Health is allowed to close Providence, those patients will now have to travel further away to other hospitals which are already overcrowded. We were thrilled when Cardinal Wuerl dedicated the Providence Emergency Department to Pope Francis just three short years ago, stating that Providence “walks with Francis’ through its dedication to mercy, service to all, and quality care for all our brothers and sisters in need—especially those on the margins of society.” Cardinal Wuerl continued, “Just as Pope Francis sees the inherent dignity in every person—Providence is here to serve those same individuals.” It would be an embarrassment to His Holiness to see this Emergency Care Center shuttered now.
We note that Ascension Health, which was granted public juridical person status by the Vatican in 2011, is bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Those directives include an obligation to “distinguish itself by service to and advocacy for those people whose social condition put them at the margins of our society.” Should Ascension prevail in its efforts to close Providence Hospital, Ascension would be abandoning its core mission as a Catholic health care provider. This is unacceptable and will exacerbate the health problems of low income residents, people of color and the elderly in the nation’s capital.
Ascension has the resources to keep Providence Hospital open. According to Ascension’s own data, the company earned $8.3 billion dollars in profits from 2013 through 2017. In the first three quarters of this year alone, Ascension raked in $1.6 billion in profit. Ascension’s CEO Anthony Tersigni received a compensation package of $17.6 million in 2015. According to tax filings, from 2013 to 2016 Tersigni took home more than $54 million. Ascension has the financial resources to maintain acute-care services at Providence Hospital and fulfill its commitment to the community. Our neighbors deserve better.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has recently signed emergency legislation requiring any private acute-care hospital in D.C., such as Providence, give notice to the State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA) at least six months prior to any proposed closing and to get approval from SHPDA before closing those services. At this critical moment, we cannot stay silent.
Ascension Health must uphold its stated mission and keep acute-care services at Providence Hospital open.
Carmelite Sisters of Charity, Vedruna
Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Discalced Carmelite Friars
Divine Word Missionaries
Franciscan Action Network
Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation O.S.F.
Pax Christi USA
Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity
Patricia Rogers, Associate, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary*
Sr. Maureen Foltz, CCV, Carmelite Sisters of Charity, Vedruna*
John Gehring, Catholic Program Director, Faith in Public Life*
Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International*
Rev. Thomas Frank SSJ, Consultor General of the Josephites, Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help*
Fr. Phelim Jordan, Divine Word House*
Fr. George Kintiba, Divine Word Missionaries*
Bro. Brian McLauchlin, SVD, Divine Word Missionaries*
Art Laffin, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker*
Sr. Maryann Mueller, Felician Sisters of North America*
Jason Miller, Franciscan Action Network
Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF, Franciscan Action Network
Kelly Moltzen, Franciscan Action Network and Bronx Health REACH*
Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, Franciscan Friars*
Fr. Joseph Monahan, T.O.R., Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular*
Fr. Michael F. Cusato, OFM, Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land*
Fr. Raymond B Kemp, Georgetown University*
Dr. Kerry Danner, Georgetown University*
Lucia Portanova, Holy Rosary Church*
Pat Kennelly, Hospice nurse*
Jo Siedlecka, Independent Catholic News*
Jeanne M Trott
Kevin Carroll, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns*
Sr. Veronica Schweyen, Maryknoll Sisters*
John P. Hogan, McLean Center at Catholic University*
Mary C Bunting, Member of Catholic church and retired Nurse Practitioner
Sr. Quincy Howard, OP, NETWORK Lobby*
Caroline Semancik, Pax Christi
Maryann Dolan, Pax Christi
Sally King, Pax Christi
Susan Kerin, Pax Christi Associate
Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN, Pax Christi
Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Pax Christi and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur*
Robert G. Shine, Pax Christi USA National Council*
Jean Sammon, Pax Christi, Holy Redeemer Church*
Thomas Mariconda, Regional Deacon Episcopal Church, CT*
Mary Liepold, Roman Catholic
Sr. Georgette Dublino, OSF, School Sisters of St. Francis*
Sr. Carol Ann Papp, OSF, School Sisters of St. Francis*
Tobias A. Harkleroad, OFS, Secular Franciscan Order*
Fr. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap., Shrine of the Sacred Heart*
Sr. Marge Clark, BVM, Sisters of Charity BVM*
Sr. Mary Hayes, SNDdeN, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur*
Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF, Sisters of St. Francis*
Sr. Geraldine Nowak, OSF, Sisters of St. Francis, Sylvania, OH*
Mary Litell, OSF, Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity*
Fr. Brian Cullinane, OFM, St. Anthony Shrine*
Fr. Patrick Smith, St. Augustine Catholic Church*
Marie Barry, St. Francis of Assisi Pax Christi*
Verleah B Kosloske, TSSF, Third Order, Society of St. Francis(TSSF)*
Francesca Wigle, Third Order, Society of St. Francis(TSSF)*
*for identification purposes only