New sponsor sought for Caritas Christi

BRIGHTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston announced Feb. 6 that they are in discussion with Ascension Health, a national Catholic health care system, about a change in sponsorship of Caritas Christi Health Care.

Currently the archdiocese sponsors Caritas Christi, which is a separately incorporated entity. The archdiocese and Ascension have a non-binding agreement to discuss the transfer of sponsorship.

“All parties hope to move rapidly through the due diligence process, reaching a definite agreement and then closing an agreed transaction in July 2007,” the archdiocese and Ascension said in their joint announcement.

Caritas Christi announced in August of last year that a strategic review committee would conduct a comprehensive analysis of health system’s position in the New England health care market. A committee was formed and worked with Chicago-based Navigant Consulting, Inc., an independent consulting firm.

Despite poor financial performance in recent years, Caritas Christi turned a $26 million profit in fiscal year 2005. That recovery provided expanded options to the archdiocese and Caritas Christi.

In an interview with The Pilot, Terry Donilon, spokesperson for the archdiocese, said of Ascension, “They’re going to assume operational control and governance of the hospital system.”

The details of that agreement have yet to be worked out, but the cardinal would still be involved, he added.

“The cardinal is the spiritual leader of the archdiocese, and that is recognized in this transaction,” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley said in the statement, “We are pleased to announce that we have selected a potential sponsor and health system that has both values consistent with those of the Archdiocese of Boston and Caritas Christi and the financial strength to support our health care system.”

Caritas Christi Health Care was established in 1985 and is the second largest health care system in New England. The organization’s six-hospital network consists of its flagship hospital in Brighton Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Caritas Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, Caritas Norwood Hospital in Norwood and Caritas Carney Hospital in Dorchester.

The statement affirms that Ascension is “committed to strong local leadership and governance.” The local hospital boards will remain in place with responsibilities and duties related to their local organizations, it continued.

Ascension Heath, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, is both the largest Catholic and largest non-profit health care system in the United States. It was formed in 1999 and now serves 65 acute care hospitals and dozens of related facilities in 20 states and Washington D.C. It consists of six sponsorship organizations -- four provinces of the Daughters of Charity (northeast, southwest, east central and west central), the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

If the deal with Ascension is finalized, Caritas Christi would be placed under the northeast province of the Daughters of Charity, the archdiocese said.

Steve LeResche, vice president of communications for Ascension, said that both Ascension Health and Caritas Christi Health Care are working on an agreement that is satisfactory to both sides.

“Ascension Health is committed to strengthening Catholic health care, and Caritas Christi has a real record of service in that community and Catholic health care,” he said. “We’re very pleased to have been selected to explore a new relationship with Caritas Christi.”

The goal of the agreement is to determine how Ascension and Caritas can work together in a way that best supports Catholic health ministry, the people of the eastern Massachusetts as well as Caritas’ associates and employees, he said.

“We think there is a good match between the missions of our two organizations because our mission calls us to serve all, really with special attention to the poor and vulnerable,” he added.