Roman Catholic healthcare providers and diocesan leaders in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, N.Y., are nearing completion of a proposal to create a massive regional network aimed at preserving the Catholic healthcare ministry.
It would be the region's largest network, combining the hospital, nursing home and ancillary operations of three existing provider groups with more than $1 billion in annual revenues.
The network would join New York's 15-hospital Catholic Health Care Network, already the largest network in the region; four-hospital Catholic Health Services of Long Island; and Brooklyn's Catholic Medical Center of Brooklyn and Queens, which operates three facilities. Eventually, it would be expanded to encompass Catholic providers and charities throughout the state and in Connecticut and New Jersey, network organizers said.
However, it would not likely involve a merger of assets because the biggest participant -- Catholic Health Care Network -- is not a licensed provider and does not control individual hospitals' boards of trustees.
A formal planning process was launched several months ago at the behest of New York's outspoken archbishop, Cardinal John O'Connor. It will conclude this month with a report to the three diocesan leaders and congregational sponsors.
"This report will delineate a series of opportunities to work together and will articulate in priority ranking some of the strategies that we feel we need to flesh out," said Mary Healey-Sedutto, executive director and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Care Network, which also includes 17 nursing homes, social service agencies and other organizations.
When Cardinal O'Connor called on the bishops of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre and healthcare network leaders to form an integrated network in June, "he knew it should be and needed to be done," Healey-Sedutto said. "He wanted to hear how."
So the report will begin by laying out the argument for creating a network.
"What drives this is a concern on the part of the three ordinaries to pursue the Catholic healthcare ministry of New York," she explained.
The body of the report will outline opportunities for coordinating healthcare services and products. Providers see the regional network as a vehicle for developing and expanding joint managed-care products, for example. They also envision opportunities to better coordinate healthcare and social services in the region.
What's yet to be decided is how the network will be managed and governed. One possibility is the creation of a limited liability corporation, said William McGuire, president and CEO of Catholic Medical Center. He expects the network to emerge as a regional operating system, not a national holding company like Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, which controls 61 hospitals and 50 long-term-care facilities in 20 states.
New York's network could operate under a unified management and governance structure, Healey-Sedutto said, but she added that she would prefer to avoid dismantling existing structures.
"I want to develop an organizational approach . . . that would cover what is currently in place in the three diocese," she said.
Catholic Health Services of Long Island and Catholic Medical Center of Brooklyn and Queens are sponsored by the dioceses of Rockville Centre and Brooklyn, respectively. Catholic Health Care Network, on the other hand, is jointly sponsored by the archdiocese of New York and the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of New York. Its member hospitals and healthcare providers are either sponsored by the archdiocese or one of 14 religious congregations.
In many regions of the country, congregational differences have kept Catholic providers from consolidating. That seems not to be the case in New York City, at least not now.
New York-based Franciscan Health Partnership, an associate member of the Catholic Health Care Network, is among the groups that support the proposed regional network.
James Flynn, the system's president and CEO, said he sees it as an opportunity to improve Catholic healthcare in the region.
Network organizers say it's premature to assess potential savings that might be generated. But if the report is embraced by church and congregational leaders, they'll begin developing a business plan in January.
Hospital leaders are forging ahead with regional network talks even as they flesh out their own local delivery systems.
Ronald Aldrich, interim president of the newly formed Catholic Health Services of Long Island, said his group's involvement in the regional network is part of a larger integration strategy.
Locally, for example, the Catholic system's board just approved a joint venture with Winthrop-South Nassau University Health System. Each system will remain a separate organization but will share resources and pursue opportunities for clinical integration, he said. The deal requires federal antitrust clearance.
Meanwhile, Catholic Health Care Network is looking to expand into New Jersey. Two Garden State hospitals have asked to join the network, Healey-Sedutto said. She said it was premature to disclose the names of the two hospitals.