Community members will have an opportunity March 4 to voice concerns or raise questions about the merger between Schenectady’s Ellis Medicine and Albany’s St. Peter’s Health Partners during a forum put on by the Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access.
“The people of our community may not be aware that this partnership is being finalized,” said Legislator Michelle Ostrelich in a news release sent Thursday on the forum. “It is the responsibility of this coalition to inform the public of the immense impact this partnership will have on people living in and around Schenectady County — and to ensure that both institutions take the necessary steps to preserve healthcare access.”
The coalition formed shortly after the hospitals announced the merger in October 2020 over concerns of what services would be provided after the merger.
Ostrelich said Tuesday when large mergers like this happen there isn’t a lot of transparency concerning what the merger means for services until the paperwork is filed.
“That leaves very little room for community input,” Ostrelich said.
Ostrelich said knowing that could happen she reached out to Paul Milton, the president and CEO of Ellis to see if Ellis would be open to inviting the community to comment on the merger.
“He’s very open,” she said. “He’s very willing to find out what the communities’ interests are.”
While she said the hospital is planning its own community meeting, the coalition wanted to have a forum where people may feel more comfortable expressing their opinions on the merger and letting the hospitals know about what services really matter to the community.
Topics at the forum will include “religious restrictions on equitable access to healthcare” and “solutions to eliminate gaps in services via other local providers and the potential community benefits of a healthcare partnership,” according to the release.
St. Peter’s Health Partners is affiliated with Trinity Health, a Michigan-based Catholic Health System. That affiliation has brought concerns over whether the new merger will prohibit reproductive services such as contraception, vasectomies and tubal ligations under Ethical and Religious Directives.
Nikita Hardy, Schenectady County Human Rights Commissioner and a certified doula, said she’s concerned about inclusive care.
“The most important thing is an inventory of services,” she said.
She said hospital officials must be able to answer where people will go if they decide to stop providing certain services.
For her, reproductive services sit high on the list of concerns, along with LGBTQ services.
“Taking away services that are one’s choice is dangerous,” she said. “We’re looking at this as a human rights issue.”
Hardy said hospital officials need to keep in mind that people feel very disenfranchised right now as they are making decisions about what services should stay in the community.
“They feel like they’re being pushed away,” she said.
Ostrelich said she has already invited officials at Ellis Hospital and plans to do the same for St. Peter’s. However, while the hospital officials are invited they won’t be allowed to provide comment.
“It’s an opportunity for them to hear what the community thinks,” Ostrelich said.
Ostrelich has already addressed some of her concerns and questions with the administration. One of her concerns was what services would be eliminated and whether there were providers in communities that could take over the service or whether there was an avenue for creating the service if there were no other providers available.
She said her other large concern was making sure that the hospitals’ decisions are in writing and publicly accessible. She also said there should be independent oversight to ensure services the hospital says are in fact provided in communities.
“Unless it has teeth, there’s no way to enforce it,” she said.
Attend the virtual forum
When: 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m., March 4
or by calling Michelle Ostrelich at 518-319-9900