Creating the country's largest Roman Catholic healthcare system is no easy task.
Just ask the religious sponsors of Daughters of Charity National Health System and Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Sisters of St. Joseph Health System. For the past year the systems have been crafting a merger deal.
"It hasn't been all roses," said Sister Xavier Ballance, board chairwoman of St. Louis-based Daughters of Charity.
Ballance, along with Sister Janet Fleischhacker, chairwoman of the Sisters of St. Joseph board, agreed to talk about the pending deal between their systems at the Catholic Health Association's recent annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The two women offered a rare glimpse into the process of putting together a co-sponsorship deal that will create the country's largest Catholic hospital system as measured by annual revenues and the second-largest in number of hospitals.
The new system, which doesn't yet have a new name or corporate identity, will have total net revenues of $5.6 billion. It also will own or be affiliated with 66 hospitals, spanning 15 states and the District of Columbia.
To be headquartered in St. Louis, the merged system is set to begin operations Oct. 1 under its new corporate umbrella (March 1, p. 12).
"We are very committed to taking the best practices of both systems," Fleischhacker said.
In cobbling together their system, the Daughters and the Sisters have had to overcome people's perceptions about what the deal would mean.
At the much larger Daughters, which brings 52 hospitals to the new system, some have felt "we're giving the store away," Ballance said.
Within the Sisters, the perception was that their system would be swallowed up by the larger Daughters.
What the deal does is bring together two health systems with five religious sponsors. The Daughters national health system is sponsored by four separate provinces of the Daughters of Charity.
The new system will operate under a single bottom line, although the religious congregations are not giving up sponsorship-or ownership-of their assets.
A goal of their union is that other religious congregations might also join the new health system with their hospitals.