LONG BEACH: Community Medical Center And St. Mary Medical Center Discuss Merger
Long Beach Community Medical Center is considering a merger with St. Mary Medical Center in a deal that would bring it under the ownership of "one of the largest hospital systems in California," Catholic Healthcare West. The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports that the "proposed merger of the two hospitals' parent corporations could impose Catholic Healthcare's religious policy against birth control and abortion on Community and seven other Southern California hospitals." In a statement issued yesterday, UniHealth, the parent company of Long Beach Community Medical Center, said, "The UniHealth Board believes that bringing the MedCenters Division's eight hospitals together with another strong health systems group will better enable these hospitals to respond to dynamic changes in the health care marketplace." Sherrie Reese, a spokesperson for Catholic Healthcare, confirmed that merger discussions were in progress but declined to give additional details.
At The Table
St. Mary, purchased by Catholic Healthcare last year, is "widely known for its cancer clinics, trauma center, kidney transplant center and low-vision center." Community brings to the table an Abuse and Rape Treatment Center, preventive health programs and an orthodontia program for poor children. A potential sticking point in merger discussions is that "Catholic hospitals such as St. Mary's don't perform abortions unless a pregnancy is life-threatening," nor do they perform tubal ligations or vasectomies. Community Medical Center does provide vasectomies and tubal ligations, but CEO Mak Nakayama "said he is not aware of any elective abortions being performed." He said, "In the event a merger took place, those are issues we would have to consider." Sister Carolita Hart of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Catholic hospitals are running into the problem of managed care contracts "insisting those services be offered." She said Washington lawmakers should establish a "national policy" to resolve the problem (Heald, 3/17).