By Maria Wiering
After months of discussions between invested parties, the Archdiocese of Baltimore confirmed that St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Towson will continue to operate as a Catholic hospital after its anticipated Dec. 1 sale to the University of Maryland Medical System.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore praised the agreement, telling the Catholic Review that “it is important that the Catholic identity of St. Joseph’s hospital be maintained, and that it continue to deliver quality health care in a manner that is faithful to the church’s teaching and compassionate.”
UMMS and St. Joseph’s parent company, Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, have been working toward a final sale since announcing their plans in March.
Approval from the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Holy See was required before the sale was finalized. Church law requires the local bishop to give his imprimatur or nihil obstat – Latin for “nothing stands in the way” – in such transactions. The Holy See’s approval is “on its way,” Archbishop Lori said.
Because Dec. 1 is a Saturday, the sale could take place Nov. 30, Mary Lynn Carver, UMMS senior vice president for communications and public affairs, told the Catholic Review.
As a Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s care will continue to be distinguished by its pastoral nature, adherence to Catholic moral teaching and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ directives for Catholic health care, and a concern for the poor, Archbishop Lori said. He said that the process provided St. Joseph an opportunity to “renew itself in mission,” and he hoped its catholicity would be evident to all patients, visitors and staff.
“We regard our Catholic hospitals as an extension of the Lord’s healing ministry,” Archbishop Lori said. “He went about healing the sick, and we believe that our Catholic hospitals and other institutions are doing the same, but in our day and age.”
As Archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori also will have representation within the hospital’s governance, he said.
Anticipating the transaction, UMMS formed a new organization, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, LLC (UM-SJMC). St. Joseph employees were notified in mid-November of their employment’s transfer to UMMS or UM-SJMC. All St. Joseph employees – approximately 2,000 – are expected to be retained, with most transferring to the new organization, Carver said.
Former Maryland state senator Francis Kelly was appointed chairman of the UM-SJMC board. Kelly was instrumental in the creation of UMMS and has served in numerous leadership roles for the health system. Edward Gilliss, current St. Joseph Medical Center board chairman, will serve as the organization’s vice chairman.
Dr. Mohan Suntha has been appointed UM-SJMC president and chief executive officer. He is vice chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, as well as a professor of radiation oncology and associate director of clinical affairs at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. He has also been part for the UMMS transition team working on St. Joseph’s acquisition.
According to UMMS, regulatory filings related to the sale are awaiting approval by the Federal Trade Commission and other regulatory authorities. The health care system expects to receive all clearances by Nov. 30.
“December 1 will be here very shortly, and we’re excited to be moving forward with all these necessary steps to make the acquisition a reality,” Carver said. “We’re very excited to be welcoming the St. Joseph employees into the UMMS family. They are (a) very quality institution, have wonderful doctors and employees, and they fit very will with the culture and community of the University of Maryland Medical System.”
The state’s largest hospital system, UMMS includes a network of 11 academic, community and specialty hospitals, and employs more than 21,500 people.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia began St. Joseph in 1864 in Baltimore. The hospital moved to Towson in 1965. A St. Joseph spokesperson declined to comment on the sale before it was finalized.
Until the sale is final, Catholic Health Initiatives will continue to operate St. Joseph. It is the first hospital to leave Catholic Health Initiatives to join a non-Catholic health system, according to a CHI spokesperson.
St. Joseph’s new position as a Catholic hospital operating within a non-Catholic medical system is an unusual situation, Archbishop Lori said, but it is not unique in Baltimore. MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore also retained its Catholic identity after joining a non-Catholic hospital system in 1994, which merged with another system in 1998 to form MedStar.
“It is my hope that (UM-SJMC) will go forward in a manner that is authentically Catholic, medically excellent and financially sound,” Archbishop Lori said.
Copyright (c) Nov. 29, 2012 CatholicReview.org