The Catholic Health Association wants to dispel the notion that Roman Catholic hospitals are gobbling up competitors, severely curtailing the availability of certain reproductive services.
A new report from the CHA contradicts an earlier study by a Washington-based watchdog group that said the number of deals between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals grew dramatically in 1998.
The CHA is challenging a March study by the group Catholics for a Free Choice, which said the number of deals grew threefold in 1998 to 43, up from just 14 in 1997 (March 15, p. 24). According to the CHA report, 32 such deals occurred in 1998, just one more than in 1997.
The CHA, which represents more than 1,200 Catholic healthcare providers, plans to release the report to its members later this month.
"This undoes this image that there is this rapid expansion of Catholic healthcare," said the Rev. Michael Place, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis-based CHA.
Deals between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals often generate community opposition because they affect the availability of reproductive services, some of which are banned by the Catholic Church.
Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said she was "flattered" by the CHA's analysis of her group's study.
"I think it's clear that they feel very challenged, not only by Catholics for a Free Choice but by other groups who have been monitoring these mergers," Kissling said.
The CHA hired Irving Levin Associates, a New Canaan, Conn.-based firm that tracks healthcare mergers and acquisitions, and the Lewin Group, a Falls Church, Va.-based research and consulting firm, to compile data for its report.
The eight-page document counters a number of other points in the Catholics for a Free Choice study. The CHA contends the report contains misleading information.