Queen of the Valley Medical Center’s parent company, St. Joseph Health, is now part of a new health care system.
Joining forces with Providence Health & Services of Renton, Washington, St. Joseph is now part of a new parent company called Providence St. Joseph Health, a not-for-profit health and social services system.
The new organization, officially formed on July 1, now employs more than 100,000 people across seven states. Providence St. Joseph Health now includes 50 hospitals, 829 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing and many other health and educational services in Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
As one of its first acts as a new entity, Providence St. Joseph Health announced a $100 million commitment to be a catalyst for improving mental health care in the United States.
“We bring together two organizations with shared values, aligned missions and like-minded founders — the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and the Sisters of Providence,” said Annette Walker, interim CEO, St. Joseph Health.
“Although our organization may be changing, our steadfast commitment to the communities we have served for generations is not,” said Daniel Dwyer, vice president, mission integration for Queen of the Valley Medical Center.
“Providence and St. Joseph Health do not serve overlapping communities,” Dwyer said. “Fundamentally, this is about bringing our shared expertise and resources under one organization.”
For the new system, “That means looking at how we can bring each other’s services to our communities, doing more to attract and retain physicians, looking at expanding community benefit programs that address housing, education, obesity and other broad need and being able to invest in new technologies like telemedicine,” Dwyer said. “These are all pluses for employees and patients.”
According to Dwyer, little will change for patients at the Queen. “We will continue to provide the compassionate and comprehensive care they depend on,” he said.
“When you walk into Queen of the Valley, it will be the same hospital that has served the community for decades. What will change is that leaders at our two organizations will work together to find ways we can improve our overall services and invest in new initiatives like our mental health effort.”
Not everyone agreed with the idea to combine the two organizations.
The California Nurses Association (CNA) had been critical of the role of the original St. Joseph system. A CNA news release protesting the merger cited “a sharp erosion of care standards, including inadequate staffing and insufficient supplies in St. Joseph hospitals, egregious violations of nurses’ rights, a weak commitment to providing essential services, and grossly inadequate levels of charity care.”
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“Corporate hospital mergers, like mergers in other segments of the health care industry, have done little to protect patients and communities,” said a news release from the CNA. “For the most part they have resulted in tacit or explicit endorsement of higher prices, and closures and other reductions in patient services, all while resulting in higher corporate profits.”
Queen nurses continue to protest a lack of a union contract more than three years after voting to join the CAN. In early July, the nurses voted to consider a picket of the hospital.
“Across the country, we face huge health challenges,” said Dwyer. “This partnership is about uniting the expertise and resources of two like-minded organizations so we can do more together. Throughout our history, that mission has driven everything we’ve done. It’s pushed us to get out into our communities and address tough issues, and to raise the standard of clinical excellence,” he said.
“A cornerstone of our missions is addressing significant social, community and health needs of our most vulnerable populations,” said Rod Hochman, M.D., president & CEO, Providence St. Joseph Health.
“One of the most challenging health issues facing our communities today is access to effective mental health services,” said Hochman. “Together, we will convene diverse partners and will be a catalyst for change for the many who struggle with mental health stigmatization, diagnosis and treatment.”
Providence St. Joseph Health has created the Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, supported by an initial $100 million investment that will be used to identify and advance innovative solutions in mental health.
Maureen Bisognano, recently retired president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, will serve as the chair of an advisory panel, working alongside Dr. Hochman.
“Improving mental health care takes leadership on all levels, as well as a major commitment of resources,” said Bisognano. “I am looking forward to leading a national conversation around mental health.”
“This is an important step in the right direction as we work to address the many gaps in our nation’s mental health system,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health. “I am confident we will make meaningful strides, bringing new hope to the many individuals and families who are affected by mental health challenges.”
The initial investment of $100 million will support research and startup operations for mental health awareness, diagnosis and treatment. Fund distributions will be made through a formalized grant process and be available internally to Providence St. Joseph Health entities as well as other organizations within the communities it serves. Members of the expert advisory panel will provide strategic guidance on the distribution of funds.
The Institute for Mental Health and Wellness will begin operating immediately and the expert panel will convene in the coming months, under the leadership of Chair Bisognano.
“This is a new day for the people of Providence St. Joseph Health, and especially for the communities we serve,” said Dr. Hochman.