From dealing with possible abortion services mandates to adapting to partnerships and affiliations, Catholic healthcare executives say they're positioning themselves for a changing market and possible healthcare reform.
The theme of change was sounded for 1,200 people attending the Catholic Health Association's annual assembly in Philadelphia last week.
"We're moving from a world in which we own and control to an area where we partner," Charles Dougherty, director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics at Creighton University in Omaha, told attendees.
Many Catholic leaders were concerned about possible mandated abortion coverage in the Clinton plan or any other reform package approved by Congress.
But some of their fellow members said there will be ways for Catholic facilities to work around the abortion issue.
"If healthcare reform creates a mandate, there will be efforts to accommodate those (abortion) services through partnerships with other providers," said Wilfred Loebig Jr., president and CEO of Wheaton (Ill.) Franciscan Services. "Let's not listen to people who say mission has no place in integrated delivery after healthcare reform."
Catholic healthcare providers said they will continue to strive to keep their missions intact in the ever-changing healthcare environment.
CHA officials announced the creation of leadership programs to help member executives improve their healthcare facilities as well as incorporate the Catholic mission in their day-to-day business practices. The CHA's "Center for Leadership Excellence" plans to implement two pilot programs in leadership development this summer, using the recent study as a model.
The new programs arrive on the heels of a study of CHA leaders commissioned by Hay McBer, a Boston-based Hay Group company, and released during last week's assembly.
Researchers said 60 Catholic healthcare executives selected from a pool of 600 compared favorably with other business leaders when evaluated on about 20 standard competencies such as analytical thinking, organizational awareness and information-seeking skills.
"The leadership model developed from this study is an important tool we'll use to meet the leadership challenge of tomorrow," said CHA president and CEO John E. Curley.
Researchers said they were surprised that executives in Catholic healthcare also had less desire for power than those at other businesses and industries.
"Usually executives have major concerns about power, but with the Catho-
lics, it was surprisingly not a need for power, but a need to affiliate," said David McClelland, chairman of Hay McBer. "When we found power it was resourceful power and something Catholic executives thought was to be shared. The better leaders were more defined by spirituality."
Hay McBer has done similar studies, which include in-depth interviews lasting several hours, with several Fortune 100 companies, including Pepsi, AT&T and Amoco Oil Co.
The executives wouldn't say how much the CHA paid for the study, but John Larrere, senior vice president of Hay McBer, said they typically cost "several hundred thousand dollars."
"Leaders of Catholic healthcare organizations are well positioned, personally and professionally, to continue their vital role in the post-reform healthcare era," Mr. Curley said. "The success of Catholic healthcare in a post-reform environment is vital to the health needs of all Americans."