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Community Forum to Address Capital Region Health System Merger

Virtual Event Virtual Event

April 30, 2021 @ 8:00 am 5:00 pm EDT

This event is over but, thanks to the magic of Sanctuary TV, you can watch the video here

The Zoom chat window is here.

In October 2020, the Albany Times Union reported a planned merger between Ellis Medicine in Schenectady and St. Peter’s Health Partners. Mergers between Catholic Health Systems and secular hospitals have raised concern in communities across the country and they have for many years as evidenced by this 1995 article in the New York Times about Leonard and St. Mary’s Hospitals in Troy.

According to the national group MergerWatch, Catholic hospitals follow a set of ethical guidelines that prohibit the provision of certain kinds of patient care, most often, reproductive, LGBTQ+-inclusive, and end-of-life care.

Concerns about the financial stability of Ellis Medicine and its importance to the community reportedly drive the need for a partnership between two of the largest health systems in the region, a solution that is the result of years of planning.

But religious restrictions and forces of healthcare economics threaten to have a disparate impact on residents who already face barriers in our healthcare system. A knowledgeable panel will discuss, answer questions, and hear comments from the community about:

• How religious restrictions will affect (and how religious biases may affect) equitable access to healthcare services
• Possible solutions to eliminating gaps in services through other local healthcare providers
• Potential community benefits resulting from the partnership.
• History of SPHS’s aggressive medical bill collection
• Process required for partnership approval by the NYS Department of Health
• The importance of memorializing the community’s priorities in the application for certificate of need, including an effective enforcement mechanism
• Opportunities for advocacy and continuing dialogue


Michelle Ostrelich is a Schenectady County Legislator and Chair of the Legislature’s Health & Human Services Committee.

Lois Uttley, MPP, is Women’s Health Program Director for Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization. She has worked for more than 20 years to protect access

to comprehensive reproductive health services, LGBTQ-inclusive care and end-of-life options when community hospitals propose to merge with nearby Catholic hospitals.  She has published research about the growth of large Catholic health systems and, as Founder/Director of the MergerWatch Project, advised community coalitions in 38 states, including several in NYS. Now based in Manhattan, Lois serves on the steering committee of the statewide Health Care for All New York coalition and coordinators the work of Community Voices for Health System Accountability. Formerly a Capital District resident, she served as Vice President of Family Planning Advocates of NYS, Director of Public Affairs for the NYS Department of Health and an award-winning reporter and editor covering New York State government for the Albany Times Union.

Arthur Butler is the executive director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission. Butler helped found the Capital District African American Coalition on AIDS, serving as their executive director for 17 years. He also worked for Hunger Solutions New York and as the national project coordinator of the Framework for Dialogue – USA.

Nikita Hardy, MPA, is the Affirmative Action Manager for Schenectady County She is a well-respected, highly recommended political strategist and community engager with over 14 years of progressive experience, including having held dynamic roles within legislative, state and local government. She recently has taken on several endeavors to further causes impacting marginalized communities.  Most notably her passion for birth justice and breastfeeding advocacy led her to organize the Capital Region Black Breastfeeding Empowerment Network, as well as her committed research on Maternal Mortality of Black Women in America. She is an advocate, an educator, a public speaker, full-spectrum Doula and policy enthusiast.

Dr. Debbie Stulberg is a long-time colleague in the work trying to protect reproductive health care from Catholic health restrictions. She was a family medicine resident at West Suburban Hospital in Illinois when it was taken over by the Catholic Resurrection Health System. Since then, she has become one of the nation’s leading researchers on the impact of religious restrictions on patients and doctors.

Glenn Northern leads and implements Catholics for Choice US activities, including advocacy, outreach, policymaker education, legislative analysis and collegial relationships. He directs CFC’s Catholics in Public Life project, a nonpartisan public education initiative that helps Catholic policy makers in the US clearly articulate prochoice positions grounded in progressive Catholicism and sound public policy. He oversees CFC’s strategic relationships with pro-choice Catholics, policymakers, reproductive health providers, religious and secular activists and collegial organizations to inform and influence debates on sexual and reproductive health and rights, social justice and religious liberty. Before joining CFC, Mr. Northern led constituency building and advocacy efforts at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. He holds a degree in political science and women’s studies from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

This People’s Health Sanctuary event is sponsored by The Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access. The Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access was formed to educate the administrations and the public about the risks of losses to our community from Ellis’ partnership with SPHP. In addition to education, members of the Coalition seek to advocate equitable access to evidence-based, inclusive, and comprehensive patient-centered care, including comprehensive reproductive care, infertility care, LGBTQ+-inclusive care, gender affirming care and end-of-life care within our local community.

Community partners include:
Local Care Midwifery, PLLC
New York Civil Liberties Union
Rosemarie Pérez Jaquith, Niskayuna Town Board Member
Progressive Schenectady

We are committed to lowering the barriers to access for events at The Sanctuary for Independent Media. For people who are hard of hearing or deaf, blind or low-vision, or whose physical limitations can interfere with a satisfying experience, let us know two weeks in advance so we can make appropriate arrangements.

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