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Hospital Merger Brings Unified Mission in Healing Ministry

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A powerful new merger between two health systems includes a group of hospitals and clinics right here in Arkansas. Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates the CHI St. Vincent hospitals and clinics in Arkansas, is merging with San Francisco-based Dignity Health.

The story of CHI St. Vincent began in 1888 with a promise from a wealthy Little Rock couple. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Hager reportedly made a promise to God that if he’d spare Little Rock from the outbreak of yellow fever hitting Memphis, they’d build a hospital in Arkansas’ capital city. That outbreak never made it to Little Rock, and the couple kept their promise.

Under the wealthy couple’s provision, a group of Sisters from Nazareth, Kentucky soon opened a 10-bed charity hospital near the modern Clinton Presidential Library. It was known as St. Vincent Infirmary. Soon after, an infirmary known as St. Joseph’s opened in Hot Springs. These hospitals would eventually grow and merge to become CHI St. Vincent.

Now CHI St. Vincent has expanded to operate four hospitals, 25+ primary care locations and 40+ specialty clinics as well as urgent care, home health, rehabilitation and surgery centers across Arkansas, according to CHI St. Vincent CEO Chad Aduddell.

And still, the health system continues to grow with this merger. Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives signed a definitive agreement to join its ministries with Dignity Health in December 2017, a news release states. The result of this merger will be a new health system called CommonSpirit Health, Modern Healthcare magazine reported.

Despite the new flag, the St. Vincent hospitals and clinics in Arkansas will stay under the same name, according to Aduddell.

CHI St. Vincent logo

“We will remain CHI St. Vincent here in Arkansas, as will be the case with Catholic Health Initiatives institutions across the country. The same will be true for Dignity Health institutions. The merger underway is not about branding or changing the nature of our business, but rather a shared mission and healing ministry,” he said.

The important thing for patients to know, according to Aduddell, is that CHI St. Vincent’s mission will remain the same, to provide patients with quality and compassionate care. Aduddell said there are no planned interruptions to the day to day services CHI St. Vincent provides across Arkansas.

“In fact, the goal is for these steps to allow us to steadily improve their quality of care over time,” he said.

Combining these two health systems will also mean there’s a larger group of hospitals and clinics for insurers and vendors to negotiate with. A spokesman for CHI said, “We expect this move to also provide additional shared resources and bargaining power with vendors to help ensure we can continue to provide the highest quality care to our patients in the most efficient manner possible.”

The Vatican granted approval for this merger in 2018, and a spokesman for the company confirmed CHI St. Vincent will remain a Catholic institution, saying, “…we continue to answer the call that the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the Sisters of Mercy began more than 130 years ago.”

CHI and Dignity Health both share a commitment to healing ministry, according to Aduddell. He said, “That is a key part of this merger, as we, like every healthcare institution at this time, work to ensure a sustainable future within a rapidly changing industry. That includes sustaining our ministry and our values while delivering the highest possible quality of care to our patients.”

CHI St. Vincent has announced some new personnel changes, but they’re not directly related to the merger. Rather, they are related to departures and other moves.

As for the new flag, CommonSpirit Health, the name beat out more than 1,200 other possible names. The new name hails from 1st Corinthians, according to Aduddell. “To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

“It was important that our name could provide a connection between all people: our employees, physicians, patients, families and neighbors alike,” Dignity CEO Lloyd Dean said in a news release. “CommonSpirit does just that.”

“We appreciate how the manifestation of the Spirit is woven into so many messages—God’s gift of compassion, the calling to heal others and serving the common good,” CHI CEO Kevin Lofton said in a news release. “Each comes together and is reflected in just one powerful word, CommonSpirit.”

The new system will have its national office in Chicago, the San Francisco Business Times reported. As for CHI St. Vincent here in Arkansas, those hospitals and clinics will continue the same health mission started more than a century ago.

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