Loyola medical center favors Catholic partner

By Bruce Japsen
Posted Dec. 13, 2010 at 10:52 a.m.

The parent of Loyola University Medical Center in west suburban Maywood wants to partner with another Catholic-owned medical-care provider, the large academic medical center confirmed this morning.

Dr. Paul Whelton told Loyola University Health System employees in a memo Friday that Loyola would “explore options .. from a position of strength” and Catholic medical-care providers would be part of its partnership discussions. The Tribune last week confirmed Loyola was evaluating whether to merge with another health care system.

This morning, a Loyola spokesman confirmed Whelton’s memo and said the health system is “planning to pursue discussions with other Catholic systems.”

“These are very preliminary discussions so we don’t have any other details to share at this point in time,” the spokesman told the Tribune.

The Catholic hospital, located in west suburban Maywood, is one of five large academic medical centers in the Chicago area.

Loyola has not disclosed names of other Catholic hospital operators it may want to involve. One potential partner, Mokena-based Provena Health, operates six hospitals in Illinois including three in the south and western suburbs where Loyola has expanded its outpatient medical care clinics and specialty doctor clinics in recent years.

Provena said it had “no knowledge of merger activities involving Loyola,” spokeswoman Lisa Lagger said.

“However,” she added in her statement. “Catholic healthcare is rooted in a tradition of collaboration, innovation and generous sharing of best practices with one another for the benefit of all we serve. As Health Reform ushers in a new era, Catholic providers like Provena are embracing that tradition even more.”

Hospitals across the country are talking about partnerships. Some are going on the sale block, seeking investors or mergers as the market demands economies of scale and large amounts of capital to be competitive with the latest developments in technology and demands by insurance companies and consumers that they be equipped with new computer systems and electronic medical records.

Though hospitals are expected to reap an influx of more than 30 million uninsured patients who will gain access to subsidies to pay for their medical care under the health overhaul law, money for that coverage does not kick in until 2014.

In the meantime, hospitals have been hurt by the stagnant economy and high unemployment which has caused more Americans to struggle to pay their medical bills. Thus, admissions at hospitals have dipped for elective surgeries while hospitals are seeing rising numbers of so-called charity care patients who have no money to pay their bills.

Loyola University Medical Center sits on a 61 acre campus in Maywood and has dozens of affiliated clinic sites and doctor practices throughout the suburbs, particularly west and southwest of Chicago. The health system employs more than 6,800 people and trains more than 450 residents.


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