WHEN THE board of directors of Greater Baltimore Medical Center last week failed to agree to a partnership with nearby St. Joseph Medical Center, St. Joseph settled the issue by walking away from further discussions. That move is in the best interests of both institutions.
As a Roman Catholic hospital, St. Joseph has forged a distinct identity reflecting the values and beliefs that have shaped its heritage. That includes adherence to Catholic principles and practices.
Patients have come to expect good medical care at St. Joseph, but no one would expect that institution to provide abortion services or seek it out for sterilization or fertility treatments.
GBMC has also built a distinct identity reflecting its heritage. One of its predecessor institutions was a Presbyterian hospital; another was a hospital founded to meet the health needs of women.
Both of these groups voiced strong objections to any arrangement that would impinge on GBMC's ability to provide the full range of reproductive health care, from in vitro fertilization to genetic counseling and abortion.
During the course of merger talks, GBMC initially announced that it would not perform abortions, but it would continue to offer other reproductive health services.
Later, a modified plan was announced, in which abortions, along with other reproductive health services, would be performed in a separate building on the GBMC campus. That compromise still didn't satisfy critics, who worried about a curtailment of those services in the future.
Even if such concerns were overblown, the critics have a point. Each institution has built a strong legacy, and in some areas those legacies are simply incompatible.
Forcing a partnership under those conditions fools no one; in the long run, such an arrangement could damage both institutions.
St. Joseph and GBMC can best avoid that outcome by finding more compatible partners.
Pub Date: 5/05/98