Hospital Mergers: Current Cases
Little Rock, AR
Local sources were alarmed last summer to hear that University of Arkansas Medical Sciences and St. Vincent Health System, a unit of Catholic Health Initiatives, are exploring some sort of partnership. A press release stated "any affiliation that is pursued will preserve UAMS' public identity and St. Vincent's Catholic identity including women's and reproductive health care services." A summary of various transaction options is expected to be released this spring. The deal may require the Governor’s approval. MergerWatch joins Catholics for Choice in assisting local activists and advocates in defending UAMS’ long tradition of providing a full range of reproductive health services.
A state-mandated merger between Catholic Benedictine and Kingston Hospitals that required the construction of a separately-incorporated outpatient surgery center to save key reproductive health services is falling apart in Kingston, NY. HealthAlliance officials have proposed closing Kingston Hospital and keeping Benedictine open as “a single, full-service, nonsectarian community hospital in Kingston, without limitations on reproductive services.” Many questions need to be addressed, including what service bans could potentially remain at Benedictine and what is to become of Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center, the sole community provider for abortions, sterilizations and vasectomies. MergerWatch has re-engaged with Healthcare STAT, a community-led advocacy group that has monitored this case for the past decade.
A proposed merger between Utica’s only two hospitals could affect community access to reproductive health care. MergerWatch consulted with the CEO of Faxton St. Luke Hospital repeatedly about potential pitfalls to consider when making a deal with a Catholic hospital. In December 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed that would allow the hospitals to affiliate while maintaining their respective operating philosophies using an active parent corporate model. No word on whether there will be any demands to restrict certain services. We continue to monitor this case as approvals from both the Catholic Church and the NYS Health Department are pending.
After considering proposals from three potential partners, Harrison Medical Center announced in October, its intent to join Franciscan Health System, a large division of Catholic Health Initiatives based in Tacoma, WA. The 262-bed, non-profit facility is the only full-service hospital on the Olympia Peninsula. The next closest acute care hospitals are in Seattle, an hour-long ferry ride away. Health care advocates have met with hospital leadership to express concerns about the alliance and seek written reassurances and plan to ask state officials for a thorough review as well.
In summer 2012, an affiliation proposal involving Highline Medical Center and Franciscan Health System was announced. Highline Medical Centerincludes a 154-bed acute care hospital, a 115-bed specialty center and more than 20 clinics in West Seattle-Burien area. According to the CEO of Highline, a strategic affiliation with a larger system would give the struggling system the financial stability it needs to survive. In October 2012, promises were made in the press that birth control and abortion services would continue to be provided. Health advocates are preparing to meet with hospital leadership to discuss our concerns and seek written reassurances that all clinical services currently available at all Highline facilities will be preserved.
Mount Vernon/Anacortes/Arlington, WA
Three public hospitals–Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Island Hospital in Anacortes and Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington–have announced their intentions to look as a group into partnering with a larger Northwest-based health care system. A Commissioner involved with the process has indicated that Providence and PeaceHealth are among interested parties. Skagit Valleyand Island Hospitals are located in the rural county of Skagit. Cascade Valley is located in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle. If these hospitals partner with a Catholic system, there would be no secular facilities in the northwest corner of the state. MergerWatch is helping local advocates prepare a letter to the leadership of these hospitals to raise concerns if a Catholic partner is chosen.
After more than a year of negotiations, PeaceHealth, another Catholic health system based in Vancouver, has taken the first formal step toward leasing and operating United General Hospital by sending a Letter of Intent to the WA State Department of Health Certificate of Need division on October 18, 2012. United General Hospital is a 25-bed, publicly-owned facility run by a 5-member commission and serves the large rural counties of Skagit and Whatcom. PeaceHealth is seeking state approval to take over United General’s bed license. If approved, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center will provide health care operations in Public Hospital District #304 for 30 years and lease certain facilities and equipment. While the hospital does not have maternity care unit, concerns remain about health care providers ability to freely counsel patients about family planning and end of life care options, possible employee benefit restrictions on contraceptive services and the make-up of the hospital ethics committee. Advocates have met with the CEO of the hospital who downplayed their concerns. Written comments have been submitted asking the state to ensure that religious restrictions will not be introduced at the publicly-owned facility.