Roman Catholic doctrine doesn't prevent Catholic hospitals from partnering with investor-owned hospital chains, more than 200 Catholic healthcare executives, sponsors and board members were told last week in Chicago."There's nothi ng in canon law that says Catholic hospitals can't be for-profit if the assets are used for the right purpose," said Sister Margaret Mary Modde, a canon law consultant with the Chicago law firm McDermott, Will and Emery.Modde and others spoke at the conference "Fourth Generation Sponsorship: Moving to Influence," which was put together by the newly created Center for Catholic Health Care and Sponsorship at Loyola University of Chicago's Institute for Heal th Law.Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine of Cleveland said it is maintaining a strong Catholic identity by using more than $200 million to create foundations after forming a 50-50 partnership last year with Columbia/HCA Healthcar e Corp. Three foundations are being created in three dioceses where CSA owns hospitals."Columbia told us that they have never undergone such intense scrutiny as what we put them through," said Sister Judith Ann Karam, major super ior of CSA. "The foundations will allow us to serve a greater number of people than we ever hoped to serve."Karam also said the joint-venture agreement ensures that Sisters will retain parity with Columbia in CSA's governance str ucture as long as Sisters' equity stake doesn't dip below 20%.The CSA deal hasn't been without controversy. Last year, the Catholic Health Association voted to ban CSA and others from the organization's membership if they become fo r-profit. Certain dioceses have adamantly opposed Catholic hospitals partnering or merging with investor-owned hospital chains. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago has threatened to strip Catholic identity from hospitals that part ner with investor-owned chains.The Vatican has respected the decision of the bishop where the hospitals' sponsoring order is located, the conference's attendees were told.But the Most Rev. James Quinn, auxiliary bishop of Cleveland , who approved CSA's deal with Columbia, said many dioceses don't have enough Catholic hospitals to allow the creation of Catholic-only partnerships."Going back to the `Music Man,' you've got to know the territory," Quinn told MO DERN HEALTHCARE."The cardinals in New York and Chicago have more hospitals, but when you go out to other dioceses with particular hospitals that have particular circumstances, it's different," Quinn said. "Catholic hospitals aren't unfamiliar with for-profits. (Catholic hospitals) have a parking garage and a gift shop and many other for-profit ventures."In Chicago, Columbia isn't ruling out the possibility of working with Catholic hospitals. The company now operates nine hospitals in the metropolitan area."We'd like to work with Catholic hospitals," said Nick Hilger, who last month became Columbia's top executive in Chicago. "I'm Catholic and I understand business."Hilger said Columbia has at least a half-dozen partnership models to choose from for hospitals considering arrangements with the chain. "We aren't limited by any single partnership strategy," he said. "I'd be happy to talk to folks at the archdiocese (of Chicago), but I have no plans to do so."
THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE;RELIGIOUS HEALTHCARE;SPEAKERS DEFEND CATHOLIC, FOR-PROFIT TIES
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.