Hospital officials postpone Gary public forum on proposed merger - August 16, 2017

Courtesy of Chicago Tribune • Gregory Tejeda • August 16, 2017

By Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune

People who arrived at City Hall in Gary on Tuesday hoping to learn more about a proposed merger of Methodist Hospitals with Franciscan Health were left disappointed, as officials canceled a public hearing that had been scheduled.

The Common Council had planned to turn its regular meeting Tuesday night into a public forum where people could ask questions about the deal directly of officials from both Methodist Hospitals, which has facilities in Gary and Merrillville, and the Franciscan Health system of 14 hospitals.

Council President Ronald Brewer said hospital officials hinted Friday they might not want to proceed, then informed city officials Tuesday morning that the hearing was off.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the issue of reproductive rights for women is a key difference between the hospital systems that would need to be settled.

Franciscan hospitals, with ties to the Catholic Church, generally restrict the ability of a woman to terminate a pregnancy except in extreme circumstances.

“They’re still negotiating and details are still being worked out,” the mayor said. “They want to be able to provide answers to people, rather than create more questions.”

Brewer said he still wants to gather hospital officials at City Hall for a public forum of some sort.

“We’ll probably have to have a special meeting to accommodate them,” Brewer said.

Gregory Tejeda is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

Copyright © 2017, Post-Tribune