Religious groups have laid thousands of hospital cornerstones, but today's business bent is forcing hard choices about how best to minister to the poor and sick. Hospitals owned by religious communities are both numerous and endangered, with as many as half expected to change hands.
Roman Catholic giant Ascension Health is showing that not only investor-owned chains can offer a financial sanctuary to a troubled hospital. Last week, the nation's largest not-for-profit system agreed to absorb Carondelet Health System and its eight remaining hospitals.
In 2002 Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association sponsored a study assessing the state of collaboration in Catholic ministries across the United States. The study was conducted by Health Systems Research, Inc., and was funded in part by a grant from SC Ministry Foundation. As part of the study, researchers visited give sites (St. Petersburg/Tampa, FL; Cleveland; Wichita, KS; Orange County, CA; and Albany, NY) to learn what makes for successful collaboration.
The Catholic Collaborative Refugee Network (CCRN) was established more than four years ago as a result of discussions among CHA, Catholic Charities USA, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' office of Migration and Refugee Services. The dozen CCRN sites each provide an organized response to the social, economic, and health problems often faced by refugees. Although the sites differ in their services, they typically help refugees prepare for and find work, preferably work with health insurance coverage.
As part of its mission to honor human dignity and to care for the poor and vulnerable, Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP), Cincinnati, has made a systemwide commitment to address housing needs in the communities it serves. A priority for the system is providing safe, affordable housing options for the low-income elderly. CHP's approach goes beyond "bricks and mortar," however. The system aims not only to provide a home for senior adults but also to enrich their lives.
The U.S. Catholic healthcare system is healthy financially, but providers are warily expecting cuts in federal reimbursement. Large systems have worked to become more efficient and profitable, and those efforts are paying off. "We are doing well. We've continued to improve our operating margins," says Kris Zimmer, left, an executive at SSM Health Care.
The Sisters of Charity Health System, Lewiston, ME, a member of Covenant Health Systems, Lexington, MA, remains deeply committed to the mission of service begun by its foundress, St. Marguerite d'Youville. Although St. Marguerite experienced a hard life, her resilience and her commitment to the poor and disadvantaged serve as an inspiration to those who continue her legacy of compassionate care. The founding work of St. Marguerite and the sisters has helped to foster a culture in which the mission of service thrives among the system's 2,000 employees.
Health care ethics USA: a publication of the Center for Health Care Ethics
Organizations, particularly Catholic hospitals, schools and social service agencies, should re-examine their relationships to health and medical charities promoting unethical research such as human embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. Part 6 of the Ethical and Religious Directives provides a helpful framework for ethical analysis and action.
A Senate hearing last week helped boost not-for-profit hospitals' chances of facing a new standard for reporting community benefits. At stake for hospitals are billions in tax breaks. The standard for exemption hasn't been modified since 1969, and "has not kept up with the substantial unfunded health needs of communities," says Nancy Kane, right, a member of MedPAC.