I’m at an outdoor music festival when a supersonic jet appears, flying very low. Everyone’s watching, presumably thinking “it’s not going to crash, is it?” But it does, and everyone gasps.

But then some kind of rescue aircraft appears, with a giant Monty Pythonesque hand operated by cranks and pulleys. It reaches down and plucks a woman from the wreck, and as we see her, we all cheer.

Catholic takeover at local hospital infuriates staff

And the staff isn’t very happy about the new rules:

Abington Memorial Hospital, the only level-2 trauma center in Montgomery County, enjoys a sterling reputation for its more than 60 physicians in obstetrics and gynecology. The medical center is far larger and generates more than twice the revenue of Holy Redeemer.

Yet, in the announced merger of the two hospitals, one that is being widely decried by staff and patients, the Catholic medical facility appears to triumph in dictating reproductive health care policy to secular Abington, eliminating abortion services, while securing chairmanship of the board.

It’s a case of the marlin swallowing the whale.

For physicians and patients who make clear, conscious decisions about working at or patronizing a sectarian or independent medical facility, the merger is heresy.

“I am extremely, extremely upset about this,” says Abington obstetrician Sherry Blumenthal. “No one in our department was consulted. This decision reduces our commitment to health care for women.” Blumenthal is contemplating severing her 22-year relationship with Abington, and says she’s not alone. “I know of at least 10 physicians who are considering leaving.”

Abington performed 64 abortions last year, 69 in 2010, many of which were for women at high risk, where their pregnancy seriously compromised their health.

Independent clinics perform 95 percent of all abortions in the state, but hospitals with top women’s health departments like Abington are the safest choice for patients undergoing troubled pregnancies. The hospital is one of the three largest in the state for obstetrics, delivering 5,000 babies each year. Once the hospital merger is completed, possibly in spring 2013, Abington patients will have to go elsewhere for abortions in a state where conservative lawmakers are doing everything possible to restrict a woman’s access to a legal medical procedure.

Hospital officials – eager to announce the merger, less eager to address specifics – did not comment on whether selective reduction will continue at the hospital, home to a large in vitro fertilization practice. Catholic hospitals ban the IVF procedure.

“Abington Health will continue to provide contraceptive services and counseling, tubal ligations and vasectomies,” according to an official statement Friday, but these practices are also contrary to Catholic Church hospital practices.

Will Abington-Holy Redeemer – or whatever the name becomes – be a little bit Catholic?

New Jersey

Why you can’t trust anything they tell you about charter schools:

This week, the citizens and school boards of Cherry Hill and Voorhees won a major battle against a proposed charter school that neither community wanted nor needed. Blue Jersey has previously detailed the story of Regis Academy’s founder, Pastor Amor Khan, an anti-marriage equity crusader and political ally of Chris Christie.

Khan admitted – and his initial application clearly showed – that he needed the charter funds that would come from local taxpayers to pay off the mortgage on the property he was attempting to buy. The property would have housed both the charter and his ministry’s other operations, a clear conflict of interest the local school boards and parent activists pointed out repeatedly.

But because charter schools in New Jersey need not be approved by their local school boards, the local sending districts – which eventually grew to include over 30 districts all over South Jersey – had to set aside millions of dollars on the possibility Regis would open its doors this fall.
When the deal for the original property fell through, Khan had to scramble to find a new site – a surprise to the local school boards and residents. At this point, even the NJDOE had to admit that there were too many “misrepresentations” in the Regis application; this week, they denied final approval to the charter. Of course, the budget is set in the sending districts; what happens to the money now is anyone’s guess.

Had Regis been the only charter with problems, charter supporters could brush off this unfortunate outcome as an isolated incident. But charters are becoming an embarrassment all over the state:

– This morning, Jessica Calefati reports in the Star-Ledger on a charter school – Adelaide Sanford – that is allegedly paying rent on properties it doesn’t use. The issue seems to be similar to the one with Regis: the school and the landlord are one in the same, allowing tax dollars set aside for charters to be used to pay rent on properties being used for other purposes.

Go read the whole damned thing even if you don’t live in New Jersey, because I guarantee the same mess will be repeated in a place near you.

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