SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access (SCHA) is seeking full disclosure about changes to healthcare services at Ellis Medicine, including Bellevue Woman’s Center, since St. Peter’s Health Partners assumed management services in November 2021. The online confidential survey is aimed at Capital District residents who sought care at Ellis Medicine in 2022.
“The purpose of the coalition’s survey is to determine if the Ellis patient experience has changed since St. Peter’s became directly involved in day-to-day management,” says Michelle Ostrelich, a founding member of the Coalition. “Questions are specifically focused on finding out if patients have been able to receive the care they needed at Ellis or Bellevue. And if not, were they referred elsewhere? If they did receive care at Ellis, was there any change in the quality of treatment they received?”
Ellis Medicine and St. Peter’s Health Partners have been working under a Management Services Agreement (MSA) since 2021. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) obtained a copy of the MSA from the state Department of Health through a Freedom of Information Act request last year. The MSA permits St. Peter’s to manage a wide range of services and functions at Ellis, including clinical departments and operations.
Equity within the healthcare system is a top priority for SCHA, according to a coalition spokesperson. “Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what St. Peter’s is taking over as they merge with Ellis under this MSA and the uncertainty is cause for concern,” expressed Arthur Butler, a founding member of the Coalition. “The survey is intended to unearth whether they are still meeting community needs. Our community hospital should be focusing on meeting people where they are. Otherwise, people get left further behind. Cuts and changes to services will affect those residents that don’t have anywhere else to go for care.”
The coalition said reproductive care at Ellis and Bellevue is of particular concern. Under the management services agreement, Ellis employees are currently able to perform care—even services that are prohibited by Ethical and Religious Directives that Catholic hospitals must follow. These include contraception, tubal ligations, vasectomies, IVF, termination of pregnancies for any reason, and end-of-life choices.
“But once the merger is finalized, those same workers will become St. Peter’s employees — and as such, will be unable to order the equipment or stock medication related to these services in the pharmacy,” a spokesperson for the coalition stated in a press release. “It is unclear which services will remain after the merger is approved.”
“Transparency from our healthcare providers is very important to me, and I hope this survey reveals more about what’s going on with the merger,” said Julia Durgee, a member of the Coalition and resident of Schenectady County. “We need to make raising families here easier. And we need to make sure they have the care they need right here in our community — that is based on science and medical standards of care, not religious restrictions.”
The survey will be available online until February 15.