While Daughters of Charity Health System works diligently toward finding a buyer who will continue to operate its six hospitals, special interest groups directly or through their surrogates are putting their self-interests above all others.
The concern voiced by a handful of groups and individuals against a potential buyer of our hospitals is misleading and in the self-interest of those voicing the criticisms. But most importantly, the unfounded criticisms are dangerous to the future health care needs of our underserved communities.
The sale process endorsed unanimously by Daughters of Charity directors seeks potential buyers who can meet a strict set of standards that go far beyond the limited criteria laid out by these critics. Indeed, this sale is not motivated by profit or opportunity – it is about maintaining access to health care and meeting our obligations to our associates, physicians, retirees, bondholders and communities. (Our non-profit Catholic organization owns St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown Los Angeles, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood and four hospitals in the Bay Area.)
Our network of hospitals is expected to have significant operating losses in fiscal year 2015. Without a buyer with the financial wherewithal to right the ship, our hospitals are in danger of shutting down.
Serving our communities, including people of limited means, has been a blessing for more than 150 years. However, in the current health care environment, it’s unsustainable. Reimbursements for Medi-Cal and Medicare patients – who make up the bulk of our patients – do not come close to covering operating expenses.
Selling the hospitals is a complicated process involving a broad range of stakeholders. The organizational priorities of all these stakeholders, including the unions and other special interest groups, should be in line with the goals and responsibilities of the board – to continue serving the communities without jeopardizing the pensions of thousands of current and retired Daughters of Charity workers.
The unions and other groups with an interest in the outcome should be reassured that the sale process will be fair. Our non-profit organization is seeking a buyer that can meet as many of the board’s criteria as possible, including preserving pensions, being willing to invest in capital improvements and financially stable enough to avoid putting the hospitals through disruptive bankruptcy proceedings, having a history of successfully managing hospitals in California and providing excellent care, and being willing to close the sale on a time line set by the board.
Once a buyer is agreed upon by the board, the choice will be made public and presented to the California attorney general. Without approval and completion of this transaction in a timely manner, our hospitals could face closure.
The Daughters of Charity directors understand the unique role our extraordinary hospitals have played in the lives of our patients, physicians, associates and other stakeholders. We are committed to preserving that legacy by finding a buyer who can keep our hospitals serving our communities for years to come.
Robert Issai is chief executive of Daughters of Charity Health System.
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