Nurses union urges state attorneys general to review St. Joseph's-Providence merger

Adding to the increased scrutiny of hospital mergers, the nation's largest nurses union has asked two state attorneys general to take a closer look at a merger that would create one of the biggest Catholic health systems in the country, according to the Portland Business Journal.

The merger between Orange County, California's St. Joseph Health System and Washington's Providence Health & Services would affect providers in seven states, including California and Oregon, leading National Nurses United (NNU) to challenge the merger with the attorneys general of both states. Although the union does not represent any Oregon nurses, it alleges the systems asked Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to waive a review of the deal.

The union cites concerns about the proposed system's size and worries that the merger could lead to service reductions at the eight affected Oregon providers. It also points out that St. Joseph's provides the least charity care of any California Catholic health system.

"NNU has substantial concerns about the impact of the proposed merger of these two hospital systems on patients, taxpayers, RNs and other employees, and the affected communities. The effort by the two hospital systems to block public review symbolizes exactly why careful scrutiny is needed," NNU Vice President Malinda Markowitz said in a statement.

The union is calling for a full review to determine the transaction's impact on charity care, community benefit, care access and reproductive/end-of-life care. The latter is a recurring concern as more Catholic systems participate in mergers and acquisitions.

A Providence spokesperson told the Business Journal the merger would not lead to any reductions in service, and said waiver requests are not unusual for such transactions, also noting that St. Joseph's does not serve any Oregon providers. "Providence and St. Joseph Health have long-standing histories of caring for everyone, especially the most vulnerable and this commitment will continue," they said.  

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the NNU statement