Big changes proposed for local Catholic health care

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Catholic health care landscape in the Chicago area could change dramatically in the coming months if two large-scale mergers go forward.

On March 4, Loyola University Health System and Michiganbased Trinity Health Care announced that they had signed a letter of intent to combine forces, setting up a structure in which Loyola University Medical Center and Gottlieb Hospital would join Trinity’s 46 existing hospitals in its system, while Loyola University would continue to operate the Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing on the medical center’s Maywood campus.

The announcement came just a month after Resurrection Health Care, the largest Catholic health care system in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Provena Health announced plans to join forces to become the largest Catholic health care network in Illinois.

Health care experts say hospitals are struggling to make ends meet as uninsured patients have difficulty paying bills, Medicaid reimbursements fall short of the cost of care — and come months late — and the cost of new medical technology and equipment soars. Larger networks can cut expenses by practicing economies of scale and have larger revenue streams, making it easier to obtain financing for expansions and other capital improvements.


At Loyola, the merger would pave the way for a $150 million state-of-the-art medical research facility, said Jesuit Father Micheal Garanzini, president of Loyola University Chicago, in a statement.

“This is a natural collaboration that is occurring at a pivotal point in our history. When Trinity Health’s resources are combined with Loyola’s renowned physicians and intellectual capital, our plan for growth in patient care, education and research take a giant leap forward,” said Dr. Paul Whelton, president and CEO of Loyola University Health System and senior vice president for health sciences at the university.

Trinity Health, based in Novi, Mich., is the fourth-largest Catholic health system in the United States with operating revenue of more than $7.1 billion and 48,000 employees. It has one of the nation’s most extensive electronic medical record systems and has been recognized by several national organizations for top quality and patient safety.

Trinity Health’s strong operating results and AA bond rating allow favorable access to financing and the ability to make needed capital, research and medical education investments, according to the announcement.

Loyola University Health System is a leading Jesuit academic medical center with a multidisciplinary focus on patient care, research and medical, nursing and graduate education. The system has one of the largest networks of practice sites in the region with a total of 28 facilities.


The proposed Resurrection-Provena merger is a more local affair, with nearly all the affected facilities in Illinois. A combined health system would include 12 hospitals, 28 long-term care and senior residential facilities, more than 50 primary and specialty care clinics and six home-health agencies, with locations throughout Chicago, the suburbs of Des Plaines, Evanston, Aurora, Elgin, Joliet and Kankakee, and Rockford, Urbana, Danville, and Avilla, Ind., providing services for patients and residents across the continuum through nearly 100 sites of care.

“This would make Catholic health care stronger in Illinois,” said Lisa Lagger, spokeswoman for Provena Health. “It really enhances the image and the power of Catholic health care.”

Because the two systems share a Catholic mission, there would be no threat to Catholic medical ethics, said Brian Crawford, spokesman for Resurrection Health Care. Since the two systems are geographically close to one another — with Resurrection facilities concentrated in Chicago and the near suburbs and Provena in the farther west and south suburbs and downstate — no facilities would be likely to close.

“The way the geography is so complementary, we don’t overlap in our markets,” Lagger said. However, some administrative positions might be eliminated.

A combined network would offer patients greater access to some specialty services, and, by combining revenue streams, could make it easier for the system to finance capital improvements and purchase new medical technology.

“Both systems are coming off difficult financial circumstances,” Crawford said. “This would allow us to maintain the ministries in a more sustainable way.”

The two also have a history of working together as partners in Alverno Clinical Laboratories in Hammond, Ind.

Provena Health is sponsored by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Resurrection Health Care is sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Sisters of the Resurrection.