CATHOLIC HOSPITALS: MAJOR PLAYERS IN HEALTH CARE ARENA
While Catholic hospitals have traditionally been "viewed asThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
more caring" than for-profit competitors, the actions of large
Catholic hospital chains such as Catholic Health West (CHW) show
that "Catholic nuns can be just as aggressive as their for-profit
rivals when fighting to gain market share." WALL STREET JOURNAL
reports that "Catholic hospital merger mania is spreading" as the
hospitals "realize that growth may be a matter of survival."
IMPRESSIVE SYSTEMS: CHW has emerged as a "regional
powerhouse" in the West, with 35 hospitals in California, Nevada
and Arizona. If CHW completes a pending merger with Samaritan
Health Systems of Phoenix, CHW will be one of the five largest
U.S. hospital chains, with nearly $5 billion in annual revenue.
Another large Catholic hospital group, Denver-based Catholic
Health Initiatives, has more than 60 hospitals in 20 states.
JOURNAL reports that for-profit hospital chains are feeling the
impact of the Catholic systems. Over the last few years, CHW
"has taken control of seven non-Catholic hospitals, at times
directly bidding against such giants as Columbia/HCA Healthcare
Corp. and Tenet Healthcare Corp." CHW, which realizes that HMOs
"increasingly control where patients are treated," also defeated
rivals to win "prestigious contracts with Kaiser Permanente," the
nation's largest HMO.
MAINTAINING MISSION: The Catholic systems do, however,
experience difficulties maintaining their mission while staying
competitive, according to the JOURNAL. Sister Patricia Siemen,
general councilor of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in Adrian, MI,
and head of CHW's governing body, said, "As businesses get bigger
and bigger, we believe Catholic health care can still be a
ministry, but it gets much more complex." Women's rights
advocates are especially concerned about the growth of Catholic
systems, according to the JOURNAL, fearing that "these hospitals
will restrict abortion, sterilization, 'morning-after pills' and
other treatments that don't conform to Catholic doctrine."
JOURNAL notes that problems could also arise because merging
"different congregations of nuns with divergent traditions can be
as hard as melding differing corporate cultures" (Rundle, 3/12).