Bylaws for a new health clinic that will open on the campus of Washington State University Spokane will be changed to ensure that care provided at the clinic isn’t restricted by Catholic health-care directives.
The announcement Friday comes two days after the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about the clinic’s bylaws and asked Washington State University regents to address the matter at their Sept. 11 meeting.
The Spokane Teaching Health Center is a consortium of WSU Spokane, Providence Health Care and Empire Health Foundation. It’s expected to open on the WSU Spokane campus in 2016, and regents will consider selling $15 million in revenue bonds to build a new facility for the clinic.
The ACLU, in a letter to WSU regents, noted that the bylaws of the Spokane Teaching Health Center say the clinic won’t “perform or permit any medical procedure that offends the moral or ethical values or directives of Providence, including but not limited to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”
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Those directives forbid or restrict reproductive services including birth control, vasectomies, fertility treatment and abortion.
Elaine Couture, regional chief executive at Providence Health Care, said Friday, “The new Spokane Teaching Health Center is a secular (nonreligious) organization and … the scope of services provided by the Spokane Teaching Health Center and the secular consortium partners will not be limited” by Catholic health-care directives. A news release added that the partners would “modify the provisions of the (clinic’s) governing documents to reflect that understanding.”
The nonprofit clinic, announced with fanfare last year, secured $900,000 in federal funding to create six new medical residencies, with the goal of creating dozens more residency positions over the next five years, the three partners said in a description of the project in July. Existing residency training programs in Spokane also would move to the new clinic, where patients would be treated by medical residents, students and other health professionals.
The clinic, to be called the University District Health Center, is expected to provide multidisciplinary health and dental care to primarily low-income patients.
Officials with WSU Spokane declined to comment on the controversy and representatives of the Empire Health Foundation didn’t return calls seeking comment.
The clinic is part of an expansion of graduate medical-education opportunities in Eastern Washington. WSU Spokane has announced its intention to try to establish a second medical school in Spokane.
Currently, medical education in Spokane is provided under the University of Washington School of Medicine’s multistate WWAMI program.