Waking Up to the Future of Health Care

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The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s regular series WAKE UP! Newport seemed especially well named for its most recent event, “The Future of Health Care.”


Attendance at the Chamber’s breakfast series had been averaging 70 to 80, according to Pam Smith of the Chamber’s staff. On August first, however, Smith had 190 reservations and several walk-ins, who arose early to hear Dr. Richard Afable, CEO of Covenant Health Network, and Robert T. Braithwaite, President and CEO of Hoag Hospital, speak at the Newport Beach Public Library.


Women from a coalition of Orange County women’s organizations also awakened early to hand out fliers soliciting support for their work with the State Attorney General’s office regarding her re-investigation into Hoag Hospital’s affiliation with St. Joseph.


Newport Beach policemen showed up, too, apparently to ensure that none of the coalition engaged in unruly civil disobedience. The women managed to restrain themselves.


Afable began with the assurance that locally we “have the best healthcare in the world.”


He was conciliatory toward the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying, “Let’s try to make it work,” and that “Hoag and St. Joseph are encouraging people to sign up.”


Afable went on to state that health care, a $3 trillion industry, traditionally has not been driven by the market, and he was bullish about “the consumer revolution in healthcare.”


Good news here: Patients will be able to shop around, driving costs lower.


Braithwaite then spoke about Hoag’s commitment to up-to-date technology, illustrated by an impressive PowerPoint presentation that showed, for example, the evolution of operating rooms into the 21st century. This is commendable, as far as it goes.


For there’s the issue of elective abortion, which was banned in May after Hoag’s affiliation with St. Joseph, despite earlier assurances that “nothing would change.”


I would argue that Braithwaite’s touting of modernity must be measured against Hoag’s marginalizing of the core of reproductive health care. Many of the women of the coalition remember well what life was like when reproductive healthcare, including contraception, was illegal and/or unavailable–which is why they hauled themselves out of bed to attend and once again protest Hoag’s (and St. Joseph’s) indifference to their concerns.


Also objectionable was Afable’s assertion that Hoag’s future healthcare system would increase consumer choice. But for women of childbearing age, the loss of elective abortions at Hoag means less access to local reproductive healthcare, not more.


If a pregnant woman suffers severe complications, where does the ambulance take her? To Hoag or up the freeway to UC Irvine Medical Center? (Planned Parenthood clinics are not set up to handle such emergencies.)


This is one of many questions that Afable and Braithwaite could have addressed. Instead, they stonewalled the entire question of reproductive healthcare for women, which puts it in bleak contrast with the hospital’s otherwise up-to-date technology and market-driven economies.


Their silence on the subject bodes badly for the women of our community — but the coalition and others who realize the full impact of Hoag’s affiliation aren’t going away.


It’s past time for the Board to wake up, man up, and listen up.


Jean Hastings Ardell can be reached at [email protected].





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