Biden arrives today as Catholic hospital controversy erupts: Pennsylvania Congressmen involved.
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In the unlikely location of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
IN THE MIDDLE OF THESE two hotly contested re-election races for a pair of Pennsylvania Democratic congressmen, the controversy first erupted over the suddenly announced sale of three Catholic Hospitals spread out between Paul Kanjorski’s and Chris Carney’s two adjoining congressional districts.
The initial announcement was made by Mercy Health Partners CEO Kevin Cook.
Cook is based in Scranton, while Mercy Partners and the three hospitals up for sale are in fact a subsidiary of the larger Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The three Catholic hospitals involved are: Mercy Hospital in Scranton; Mercy Special Care Hospital in Nanticoke, both in Kanjorski’s 11th District. And the Mercy Tyler Hospital in Tunkhannock, located in Carney’s adjacent 10th District.
The Cook announcement was big news in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters of Mercy had opened Mercy Hospital in Scranton, a major facility for the city, in 1917 — 93 years earlier. Inevitably it drew media attention. Which is where the plot thickens.
WNEP TV (Channel 16) reporter Jon Meyer filed a story about the sale at 4:40 pm. that afternoon. WNEP TV anchor Paula Giangiacomo led the story on the air by saying that “one big” reason for the sale “is the health care reform bill signed into law this year.” Mercy Health Partners CEO Cook was interviewed on camera along with Sister Marie Parker. When Meyer asked Cook if ObamaCare had anything at all to do with the sale, the CEO replied:
“Health care reform is absolutely playing a role. Was it the precipitating factor in this decision? No, but was it a factor in our planning over the next five years? Absolutely.”
Notice the use — twice — of the word “absolutely” by Cook, leaving no doubt with viewers that while ObamaCare wasn’t the “precipitating factor” it was “absolutely playing a role…Absolutely” in the decision by Mercy Health Care Partners to put the three hospitals up for sale.
Then, on Friday October 8, only 48 hours after the story hit the local news on WNEP, the executive changed his story. Sort of. A second statement came out over Mr. Cook’s name as CEO. Headlined on the PR Newswire-US Newswire services, the statement was headed: “Mercy Reiterates Rationale for Sale Exploration.”
Gone was any reference to the subject discussed in the WNEP-TV story. ObamaCare playing a role in the sale of the three hospitals? Where would an idea like that ever come from? Not from this second statement. There is not a word of Cook’s videotaped certainty that ObamaCare is responsible in some measure for this proposed sale. Yet curiously, there is no out-and-out retraction of Cook’s comments to WNEP either. The subject of ObamaCare bearing responsibility for this sale in any fashion is disappeared. Completely missing. The second statement just has Mr. Cook saying that sale discussions were being conducted “long before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The decision was due to many factors.”
But there appears to have been something else at work here behind the scenes that necessitated this second statement from Cook.
Mysteriously, the very same day, came this statement, also released on the PR Newswire services. Out of the blue, suddenly released by Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association (CHA), the headline was sharp and pointed. The headline?
Alarmist News Reports About Catholic Hospitals Are False; CHA Supports Difficult Decision by Mercy Health Partners.
In a fury that fairly leaps from the page, Sister Carol says immediately that “false motives” have been assigned to the proposed sale of the three Mercy hospitals. Says the good Sister: “Reports that health reform is the primary motive behind the sale are completely false, misleading and politically motivated. Deliberations to sell the facilities began well before the Affordable Care Act became law and did not hinge on enactment of the legislation.”
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