BY ANGIE HAFLICH
St. Catherine Hospital announced Thursday that it will join Colorado-based Centura Health, along with St. Rose Ambulatory and Surgery Center in Great Bend. The move is expected to leverage strengths by delivering high-quality, affordable health care, while allowing both Catholic-based institutions to maintain their Catholic identities, officials said.
Scott Taylor, president and CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives Kansas, which owns both St. Catherine and St. Rose, said that the partnership will allow both hospitals to deepen and expand their ministry, while partnering with an organization that will bring considerable expertise in relevant strategic initiatives.
Catholic Health Initiatives, Englewood, Colo., voted Wednesday to integrate the two hospitals into Centura Health, after the boards of directors of both hospitals unanimously recommended the integration. The final approval was made by CHI.
According to a press release from St. Catherine Hospital, the integration of the two facilities with Centura Health will unite all CHI hospitals in Colorado and Kansas into a single regional structure that leverages strengths and better serves Colorado and Kansas communities by delivering high-quality, affordable health care. The consolidation will benefit consumers throughout the region by facilitating shared best practices, linked systems of care, transparent exchanges of health records and, ultimately, improved and more-consistent clinical quality across the two states and region.
In response to the specifics of the transaction, Taylor said the hospitals will continue to be under the ownership of CHI.
"In the simplest form, CHI has placed the two Kansas facilities in their ownership under the operational management of Centura Health, because we remain owned by CHI," he said, adding that the transaction itself is essentially a balance sheet, or asset transfer.
Taylor described Centura Health as a joint operating arrangement between CHI and Adventist Health Partners. CHI owns all of the Catholic facilities within Centura Health and operates them according to dictates of the Catholic church.
"So there is no change in our Catholic responsiveness, our membership in the Catholic federation or actually our ownership by Catholic Health Initiatives," he said.
Despite the change in operational management, Taylor said that the organizational structure and both hospitals will remain essentially intact.
"Within the organizations themselves, there is no change in reporting structure. At the board level, the board authorities remain the same as they did with Catholic Health Initiatives," he said.
The transition isn't expected to result in a reduction in employees either, Taylor said.
"We expect no reductions in employment. In fact, we've told the employees there will be no reductions in force, no layoffs, no cutbacks associated with this transition at all. There are, however, certain groups within the institution that were scheduled to be outsourced to other companies under the CHI flag that will now remain within our own local governance structure," he said, adding that those employees will now have the opportunity to stay with their respective employers, St. Catherine or St. Rose.
"They were formerly scheduled to transition out on Jan. 1, so we view that as a positive from that standpoint," he said.
He said they don't anticipate substantial changes in employee benefits, either.
Centura will officially begin its operational responsibilities on Jan. 1, 2013, and the associates and employees of St. Catherine and St. Rose will become Centura employees on July 1, 2013.
"The entire transition is expected to take up to 18 months to integrate our information technologies and programs into Centura's programs so that both of us are fully functioning members of Centura Health," he said. "Through that network, we become more relevant. We're able to do three things on an immediate focus. First and foremost, improve the overall quality care of residents of rural Kansas, whether that's western Kansas or central Kansas. (Secondly), we are able to reduce the costs of that care to both the consumer, as well as the local providers who struggle with the cost of care. The third area is to improve the experience of care, where hopefully we can limit travel, we can improve access to specialists and specialty care and specialty services in this part of the country, where health care is largely rural and can really require some distance in terms of travel."
Taylor said that Centura brings expertise in areas such as telemedicine, the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical health care at a distance. This will allow greater access to health care, particularly to patients in rural areas.
"It allows us to take that care to alternative settings, whereby patients don't have to travel as far, through the use of telemedicine, through the use of home-based technologies, through the use and expertise of free-standing ambulatory care centers, such as St. Rose, and even into additional spectrums of care, such as long-term care, assisted living, etc., etc.," he said.
With its affiliations with critical access hospitals, from which St. Catherine receives a large number of referrals, Taylor also anticipates that the partnership with Centura Health will help ease the financial strain that many of those facilities face.
"We believe that our partnership with Centura will allow us to bring systems to play in Kansas through clinical affiliations with these facilities and collaboration with their medical staffs, we can develop innovative models that can reduce the cost of care and can improve the experience across western and central Kansas and possibly beyond."