Culture, Religion

MD. Chaplain gets the boot for halting Christian bible placement in hospital

From JewsOnFirst

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.”

10 thoughts on “MD. Chaplain gets the boot for halting Christian bible placement in hospital

  1. Come on. Salisbury, Maryland is about the most Christian-populated locale you can imagine. If 98% of the hospital’s patients and families are Christian…why is it wrong to allow a private group to give them access to their religious texts?
    I have no idea if the “long-lived pathogens” inhabiting bibles concern is a serious issue or not. Certainly, people bring books and whatnots into hospitals all the time for the benefit of the patients there. If hospitals no longer permit entry to books then I’m sure the Rev. can dig up additional medical research on this. Obviously certain patients in a hospital may have very restrictive protocols on what sort of contact they can have with outside objects/people during recovery. But that’s not the norm for most.
    As for “HIPAA violations”…if HIPAA doesn’t permit people to offer books to recovering patients then HIPAA is even more inane than I thought. Is Peninsula Regional turning non-Christians away at the door? No? Fine! No discrimination!

  2. Wouldn’t anyone who wanted a Bible have a Bible? Aren’t the placement of them just a missionary tactic? Get a foot in the door while people are down? Not that that’s important. All of Rev. Myers concerns were valid. It’s just another example of the crazy Christians’ (not all of them are crazy) belief that not being able to do whatever they want to do violates their rights.
    A agree with Siviyo, they should have just kept the books in another room, available on demand. That’s perfectly reasonable. Everyone gets what they want.
    Eric, I hope our society hasn’t fallen to the point that meerly allowing someone admission to a hospital is a sign of respect.

  3. Eric,
    I suspect the HIPAA violation would be the fact of the Gideons themselves taking the books to the rooms. I wouldn’t want a stranger offering me religious books when I was in the hospital, even if they were members of my religious tradition. Why shouldn’t the Gideons give the books to the chaplain to give to the patients?
    What is ridiculous and inane is the firing of this capable, competent chaplain.

  4. Johnny–is it really the government’s job to legislate “respect” among individual people? The government has already legislated equitable access to medical care–what more is needed?
    “I wouldn’t want a stranger offering me religious books when I was in the hospital, even if they were members of my religious tradition.”
    First off, if you don’t want the book…couldn’t you just say “no thanks”? Second, because I’m interested in such stories I actually read the original article about this brouhaha. Do you realize how silly this thing is? The bibles were simply in the nightstands in the rooms. The Gideons weren’t even visiting the patients. The bibles were preplaced in the nighttables like in a hotel. What’s next–are we going to sue the Holiday Inn?
    I’m sure something like 99% of the people who use that hospital are Christian. Is there actually something wrong with having Christian bibles available in rooms where 99 out of 100 occupants are Christian? I think there’s something very intolerant and whiny about this–what on earth is wrong with the overwhelming majority’s religious text being present in the nightstand? Should a community hospital in a 99% Muslim area ban all korans from the nightstands? Should a hospital in Boro Park or Williamsburg ban siddurim from the nightstands?
    If you don’t want to read it, then just leave the nightstand closed and ask for a text that you would like to read. It’s a big world, OK? Sometimes the text in the drawer won’t be yours.

  5. “Health care-associated infections remain a major cause of morbidity, mortality and cost despite concerted efforts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and infection control professionals for nearly a half-century. Recently, treatment of these infections has become more complex due to an alarming rise in antibiotic resistance.”
    “… evidence-based interventions include aggressive detection of carriers, rigorous isolation of colonized patients, appropriate hand hygiene, and thorough disinfection of the environment and personal equipment. Although aspects of this package may seem self-evident, the key to preventing transmission of organisms is highly reliable practice of all components — rates of compliance that greatly exceed current practice in most health care settings”
    REDUCING HOSPITAL BASED INFECTIONS, Institute for Healthcare Improvement,
    Keeping a bible in the bedside table for use by successive individuals is not a good idea; if bibles were kept for use as desired, each would have to be given as a gift to be taken home by the patient.
    When this particular hospital is reviewed for accreditation, this would be an issue to be addressed in order to meet minimum standards.

  6. Hey, the other day I got a newspaper in a public place, and as devout Muslim I object to its religious contents: it described extramarital affairs of married celebrities, showed them in most indecent dressing, it had an astrology section…. So what? I do not read it!
    Whoever wants to live in a country where the government controls what people may read and what not, should go live in a nice dictatorship – try Saudi Arabia for instance. Not too difficult for most of the people posting here here, anyway, as most of these countries are allied to the present US government anyway.
    What I really enjoy in the “decadent West” is the liberty one has, and the offers one gets. And you want to destroy that and even forbid books because you do not like them?

  7. Eric,
    You probably won’t read this, but the respect I was talking about had nothing to do with the government. It’s about being a decent human. Persoanlly, I wouldn’t complain because I’m used to it. However, I think it would be a better idea to keep the books in stock for those who want them, possibly even asking other religions if they would like to donate books as well. That way everyone gets what they want and everyone gets treated with respect. Plus, the risk of contamination is gone.
    By the way, just because it’s not the government’s job to legislate respect doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t treat each other with respect. There are better solutions than keeping the books in every room or pulling the books entirely.

  8. Johnny,
    I did read (and re-read) your comment. Since your observation about respect was in response to discussing the topic of “discrimination” and the HIPAA regulations, it seemed that you were talking about person-to-person “respect” in the context of those regulations. Of course I believe normal people should treat each other with respect! If you believe that the government should not be involved in trying to impose respect among people then we’re in agreement. The government’s opinion of that has nothing to do with my own judgment either way.
    If the hospital wants to keep a stack of books in stock for the access of patients, then fine. I think that patients of various beliefs should be able to have access to the clerics/texts that they desire.
    But I also think there’s no problem with leaving/placing a particular type of book in the nighttables when 99% of the users of the nighttables are of the faith represented by the book. I certainly don’t think there’s any good reason to go and remove the books just to avoid the dreaded possibility of “offending” somebody or other. Maybe we’re just in disagreement there.

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