As director of pastoral care for a community hospital in Maryland, the Rev. Kay Myers halted the placement of sectarian Christian books in patients’ rooms.
Myers said her decision was one of the carefully measured steps she had taken during her seven-year tenure to move her department to a professional level of pastoral care. The hospital’s response was not so measured. The CEO immediately countermanded Myers. Within months she was forced to resign.
The Presbyterian Rev. Myers, in her seventh year directing the chaplaincy at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, had objected to some specific problems: the Gideons had been placing Bibles by going room to room, and she was concerned that this was a violation of HIPAA, moreover, the infection control center at the hospital had sent out an email recommending against placing the books in patients’ rooms because they might harbor long-lived pathogens, which CEO Alan Newberry simply ignored, even after Myers also forwarded him a report from an onlne chaplain bulletin board discussing the same topic.
Rev. Myers also felt that since the Bibles that the Gideons were distributing were only a New Testament and Psalms, and the hospital is a community hospital, significantly supported by public funds including Medicare and Medicaid, and hospitals with such finding must declare that they do not discriminate, it was inappropriate to have such sectarian emphasis, particularly since the facility is the most advanced in the area and locals do not have an easy alternative to Peninsula
Rev. Myers remains adamant that that a “market-place ministry” such as a hospital chaplaincy must be nonsectarian. “It needs to be carried out with best practices, with professional standards,” she said. “I do believe that people in the hospital need spiritual support. But you need to meet them where they are — not try to pull them along to where I am.”