Cardinal Timothy Dolan makes no promises on preventing abortions at Benedictine Hospital
Sept 16, 2012
KINGSTON, N.Y. – New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has told a Port Ewen anti-abortion advocate that he wishes he “could provide more assurances” that abortions will not be performed at Benedictine Hospital once it becomes a non-sectarian facility.
Johanna Jankowski, who opposes the prospect of abortions on the campus what has been a Catholic hospital since 1901, received a letter from Dolan in early August. Jankowski had written to Dolan seeking his intervention to prevent abortions from occurring on the Mary’s Avenue campus after Kingston Hospital closes as planned.
In her letter, Jankowski makes note of Benedictine’s “111 years of service to the community in Ulster County.”
“How can they turn the Benedictine Hospital into a killing field?” she asks. “What can we do to change this?”
HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, the company that oversees Benedictine and Kingston hospitals under an affiliation agreement, has said it plans to close Kingston Hospital in the next 17 months. Company officials have said the state Department of Health has mandated that a full selection of reproductive health services, including abortions, be offered at Benedictine Hospital.
HealthAlliance and the Benedictine nuns who still own the hospital are negotiating an agreement that would allow it to become a non-religious institution and be operated under a different name.
“Under the current plan, Benedictine Hospital and the Kingston Hospital will cease operations,” Dolan wrote to Jankowski. “In their place, a new non-sectarian hospital with a different name will open on the former Benedictine Hospital site.”
Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, said the alliance of Benedictine and Kingston hospitals was “based on a comprehensive agreement that assured that the proscribed services were not to be carried out in either one of the hospitals.”
Abortions are performed at a separate building, the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center, on Kingston Hospital’s grounds. But that center is expected to close with Kingston Hospital.
“In order for the new plan to be initiated, the previous agreement will have to be legally cancelled,” Dolan said.
“I wish I could provide more assurances on preventing those proscribed services from taking place at what will be the former Benedictine Hospital campus,” Dolan said. “We will continue to attempt, at least temporarily, to keep the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center where it is presently located.”
In a telephone interview, Jankowski said she viewed Dolan’s letter as a way to “console” her but said the cardinal and other Catholics need to fight harder.
Jankowski has she considers Benedictine Hospital “holy ground” and that abortions should never be performed there. Jankowski said she signed onto the original alliance with Kingston hospital only after assurances were given at abortions would never take place at Benedictine Hospital.
Jankowski has suggested Benedictine remain open as some other medical provider or nursing home and that Kingston Hospital and the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center also remain open.
Jankowski said she will continue to do battle and attempt to garner the support of others.
“I am not stopping,” she said.
HealthAlliance officials have said that the closing of Kingston Hospital is necessary because of steep financial losses since 2008. The company attributes the losses to a variety of factors, including cuts in government reimbursements, the poor economy, patients using more outpatient services provided by private physicians, and Ulster County not being included in a higher-paying federal reimbursement zone.
HealthAlliance officials have said that there is usually a 70 percent occupancy rate between the two hospitals, which have a total of 300 beds. Once Kingston Hospital closes, the number of beds is expected to be reduced to about 200.