Last week, Steward Healthcare announced they were forming another alliance with Partners Healthcare, this one to send Steward’s most severely injured patients from emergency rooms at Steward’s 10 community hospitals to Partners-owned Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals.
Those following BCI and the Boston Archdiocese know that Steward Healthcare was formed when the Caritas Christi hospitals were sold off by the Boston Archdiocese to Cerberus, a private equity firm. There are several aspects of this latest alliance that we thought should be of interest to BCI readers.
Is this just one step in a series of partnerships that will result in Partners acquiring the best remaining Steward hospitals?
The article reports how Steward is already partnered with Partners to refer complicated adult care cases to Mass General Hospital and the Brigham, and to refer complex children’s procedures to Mass. General’s pediatric branch, MGH for Children. This just adds another level of collaboration.
More than two years ago, in Caritas Coincidences, we mentioned the Jack Connors’ conflict of interest over pushing for the Caritas sale while being chair of Partners Healthcare, who would be a likely acquirer of selected Caritas hospitals when Cerberus wants to sell them. We also shared John Kaneb’s conflicts of interest as vice chair of the finance council, trustee of Partners, and having played a key role in hiring the Caritas CEO. Now, it appears even likelier that the proverbial “chickens will come home to roost.” We wonder how long it will take before Partners simply acquires the most desirable and profitable Steward hospitals. This would more or less complete what we have described here as Jack Connors’ efforts to get the Brighton/St Johns Seminary property for his alma mater, Boston College, and get the (former) Catholic hospitals for Partners.
How much Catholic identity remains at Steward hospitals?
Those following the sale of Caritas to Cerberus and creation of Steward will recall how everyone talked about the stewardship agreement that would preserve the Catholic identity of the hospitals “forever.” Well, if you look at the Steward website, you will see that “forever” did not last long. Here is what we reported back in February 2011 in “Removing Christ from Caritas Christi:
The goal of the stewardship agreement that set out conditions of the sale was to preserve the Catholic identity of the hospitals forever.
Christopher Murphy, a spokesman for the network, said the stewardship agreement would be designed to permanently maintain the hospital’s Catholic identity….“The main point is that it’s designed to last forever,” he said. “That’s the prevailing hope of everyone involved, that . . . the Catholic tradition of Caritas Christi stays in place forever.” (Boston Globe, April 28, 2010)
“The Stewardship Agreement memorializes Steward’s commitment to maintain the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi Healthcare system and its fidelity to the mission of the Church’s healthcare ministry.” (Fr. Richard Erikson, Vicar General, The Boston Pilot, May 14, 2010)
“We announced yesterday that an agreement has been reached with Cerberus that ensures the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi hospitals… this stewardship agreement was a key component for us because it will preserve the Catholic identity of Caritas.” (Cardinal Seans blog, May 7, 2010)
Just for the sake of posterity, let us look at how Caritas Christi presented the hospital network about 5 years ago, before Fr. Bryan Hehir, Jack Connors, and Ralph de la Torre got involved. To the right is the former logo, with a prominent cross. Here is a cached version of the Caritas Christi website as of January 2008. They described themselves at the time as follows:
Caritas Christi is a Catholic Health Care System rooted in the history of the Archdiocese of Boston. As a community of health care providers, we affirm Christ’s healing ministry, foster excellence in care, and commit ourselves to those in need in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church.
That Catholic identity in the mission–at least expressed publicly at the time–is becoming ancient history.
To be fair, if you dig deep on the Steward website, you will find that most of the Steward hospitals still offer fairly regular Catholic Mass and have the sacraments available, though it is rare to find them identify the hospital as being Catholic. Norwood Hospital is the most concerning. See this section under Spiritual Care called, “Labyrinth“:
We invite you to journey on our labyrinth located on the second floor patio of the Lorusso Building, near Unit 21.
A labyrinth is vehicle for the development of our spiritual journey with God. It is a single path of concentric circles that leads to a central point. As we walk the labyrinth in prayer, we journey with God. Each step moves us closer to the Divine.
If the “Catholic identity of the hospitals has been preserved,” then what is with the labyrinth?
Wait another year, until October of 2013, and we will see if Steward continues to maintain the “Catholic identity” with respect to Catholic moral and ethical directives on abortion and contraception.