The top executive of Advocate Health Care of Chicago last week criticized efforts by many Roman Catholic hospitals in the Chicago area to create Catholic-only hospital networks, and he invited rebel Catholic facilities to join the Advocate system.
The system's invitations to Catholic hospitals have been blocked by the Archdiocese of Chicago's preference for cooperation among Catholic facilities first. Last year, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago even threatened to strip one hospital of its Catholic status if it joined a managed-care network competing with Catholic initiatives. The hospital is still discussing its position with the archdiocese.
Speaking to a conference of Catholic hospital executives in Chicago, Advocate President Richard Risk said he isn't sure all-Catholic networks will survive because they might not grow quickly enough. He said faith-based hospitals must instead find common ground to work together.
"Advocate is here and ready to partner," he said.
Advocate, an eight-hospital system, was formed in 1995 by the merger of EHS Health Care of Oak Brook, Ill., and Lutheran General HealthSystem of Park Ridge, Ill.
A similar deal fell apart in the previous decade. But a merger succeeded the second time around because the systems' religious sponsors reached an ecumenical agreement acknowledging each others' beliefs.
The two sponsors-the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ-appoint the 24 members of Advocate's corporate board, which oversees the system's board of trustees.
In the immediate Chicago-area, two all-Catholic networks are working to solidify their market positions.
Accord Health Network recently added its eighth member, 409-bed Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers in south suburban Evergreen Park, and affiliated with the local Catholic Charities. Accord President Burton Vanderlaan, M.D., said he thinks there's great potential for a Catholic system in the area. The second network is three-hospital Catholic Health Partners.
Under discussion is a third Catholic network, including seven hospitals in suburban Chicago and central Illinois (March 10, p. 24).
Risk said it seems a good time to extend an invitation to Catholic facilities because of a change in leadership at the archdiocese.
Earlier this month, Archbishop Francis Eugene George was named head of the Chicago archdiocese, replacing Bernardin, who died last fall.