June 1999

The Value of Being Part of Catholic Health Initiatives

As economic and competitive pressures bring about more mergers in the health care industry, more Catholic health care providers are facing the issues involved in merging with other-than-Catholic providers of reproductive health services. To help Catholic Health Initiatives’ market-based organization leaders address questions from people inside and outside of the facilities involved, enterprise staff has created a pilot program called "Reproductive Health Services: Understanding and Addressing Issues in Forming Relationships with Other-Than-Catholic Providers." The program, which takes the form of a 90-minute inservice, provides information on the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding reproductive health issues. It also addresses how market-based organizations can follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church, and still help a community in meeting its need for reproductive health services. "This issue almost always receives tremendous attention from the media as well as the Catholic community, opposition groups and hospital employees," said Mary Elise Biegert, director of communication services in the Louisville Office. Biegert developed the program along with Carl Middleton, vice president of theology and bioethics for Catholic Health Initiatives. "It is important for market-based organization leaders to anticipate questions and be prepared to respond appropriately," she said. "When we brought the idea for the program before the Louisville Group’s CEO Council, they endorsed it wholeheartedly. While only a handful of market-based organizations have dealt with this issue so far, any hospital that offers obstetrical care and related reproductive services may have to deal with it in the future." The program provides leaders with key messages to communicate to internal and external audiences. "The Catholic Health Association recently published a resource tool called ‘Telling Your Story: A Communication Resource for Catholic Healthcare,’" said Biegert. "We drew on that and on our own experiences to develop the key messages, which include the fact that we can serve our communities and respect our partners’ values without becoming direct providers of services that do not fit with Catholic values." Biegert and Middleton recently presented the program to leaders at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington, Ky., where it was well received. They are using feedback from this pilot to further refine the program. "I think the program is valuable because it gives a historical perspective on why the Catholic Church takes the position that it does on issues of reproductive health," said Tom Murray, president and chief executive officer of Saint Joseph. "Catholics are in the minority on our management team, so it was good for all of us to hear that. Plus, with the acquisition of Saint Joseph East last year, we are getting back into obstetrical services. This was a great opportunity to review and open a dialog about reproductive health issues."