Separation of church and scalpel

Saint Louise Regional Hospital

Catholic Healthcare West, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems that once included Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, announced Monday it is severing its affiliation with the Catholic Church and changing its name to Dignity Health, according to Kaiser Health News.

In 1995, CHW merged its hospitals with the Daughters of Charity – also a healthcare system – which included Saint Louise Regional Hospital. The merger came about as a response to market pressures and perceived opportunities to strengthen the wider Catholic health ministry in California, according to the Daughters of Charity Health System’s website.

In 2001, “after careful reflection,” Saint Louise Hospital left the umbrella of CHW when the Daughters of Charity withdrew from CHW. The Daughters of Charity Health System was formed at this time.

Because Saint Louise is no longer merged with CHW, hospital spokeswoman Jasmine Nguyen said CHW’s split from the Catholic Church will not effect Saint Louise’s practices or core values of serving the underprivileged and impoverished.

Per Saint Louise’s policy, the hospital turns no one away. After a patient is cared for, a financial adviser will work with that patient if he or she is uninsured.

According to Kaiser Health News, CHW anticipates that by ending its affiliation with the Catholic Church, “executives hope it will make it easier to merge or affiliate with other hospitals, doctors’ practices and other health care providers” in order to “survive and thrive” in a time of “tremendous financial pressures.”

In the past few years, proposed mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals have collapsed in part because of concerns about the church’s bans on abortions, in-vitro fertilizations and sterilizations, according to Kaiser Health News.

When queried if the Daughters of Charity Health System would ever consider ending its ties with the Catholic Church in order to increase its chances of financial survival, Elizabeth Nikels, vice president of Communications for Daughters of Charity replied via email, “With Jesus Christ as our model, we advance and strengthen the healing mission of the Catholic Church by providing comprehensive, excellent health care that is compassionate and attentive to the whole person: body, mind and spirit.”

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