Catholic Healthcare West curbs religious ties to expand

Catholic Healthcare West is ending its board's association with the Catholic church and changing its name to Dignity Health in a governance restructure that will help the system expand nationally, the fifth largest U.S. health system announced today.

The new governance structure and name will uphold the identity of Dignity Health's 25 Catholic and 15 non-Catholic hospitals, especially as the system anticipates more partnerships to integrate care and and reduce costs.

"The new structure supports our long-term plan to grow and coordinate care, while reinforcing our mission of service to the communities we are so privileged to serve," President and CEO Lloyd H. Dean said in a statement.  

Dignity Health's Catholic hospitals will continue to follow religious healthcare directives, according to the press release. Its secular hospitals will adhere to the Statement of Common Values, which bans elective abortion and in-vitro fertilization but allows sterilization, reported Kaiser Health News.

The system's new governance structure tries to address problems faced by several failed mergers between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals. For instance, community members took issue with the Catholic healthcare directives and former merger participant University Hospital, worrying that the merger of a Catholic hospital and a secular hospital would limit reproductive services for women and end-of-life care at the public facility.

With Dignity Health, "It's more like two families under one roof as opposed to 'you have to join our family,'" Martin Arrick, a managing director at Standard & Poor's, told KHN. "If this proves to be successful--and I have no reason to think it won't be--I think you're going to see a wave of Catholic and non-Catholic partnerships."

For more information:
- read the CHW press release
- check out the KHN article