Health Systems CHI Franciscan and Virginia Mason of Seattle have joined forces to form Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, officials from CHI Franciscan’s parent company CommonSpirit Health said Tuesday.
The two signed a Memorandum of Understanding in July to explore the combination of CHI Franciscan of Tacoma, a Catholic healthcare system, and Virginia Mason through a joint operating company. Tuesday’s announcement makes this merger official.
Virginia Mason Franciscan Health will operate 11 hospitals and nearly 300 nursing homes, including primary and specialty clinics and same-day surgery centers.
The new healthcare system will be led by the two current heads of the system, Ketul J. Patel, CEO of CHI Franciscan and President of the Pacific Northwest Division at CommonSpirit Health, and Gary Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason.
“Virginia Mason Franciscan Health has an incredibly strong foundation to build on as our two storied organizations have an exciting vision, especially as we expand services to the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Patel.
“We are determined to build a consumer-centric healthcare system while expanding our presence as a national leader in transforming
Health care. “
The merger came after the July announcement after the two networks worked together on obstetrics, women’s health, and radiation oncology.
Virginia Mason said it would remain a non-Catholic organization but announced some changes.
“Virtually all of the procedures that Virginia Mason performed in the past continue to be offered, with the exception of direct abortions and Virginia Mason’s participation in assisted death,” a Virginia Mason spokesperson told Franciscan Health in an email.
The spokesman said Virginia Mason had only performed a very limited number of abortions in the past and was not involved in the doctor-assisted death at his hospital.
“These services will continue to be available to our communities in the settings they are normally provided in. These are outpatient treatment centers outside the Virginia Mason system,” the spokesman said.
The merger had been rejected by reproductive rights activists and the Washington ACLU, who, along with eleven other organizations, warned in a July 21 letter that the merger could jeopardize access to some needed services, including abortion, contraception and end of life Treatment of life care and LGBTQ services.
The problem was raised in Washington. The Swedish medical center merged with Providence Health & Services in 2012 and stopped providing hospital abortions. Similar services were discontinued in Bellingham and other cities in Washington after Catholics took over Catholic hospitals.
Every sixth US hospital bed is in Catholic facilities. In Washington it’s 41%. This comes from a new report on Religious Hospital Systems due out by MergerWatch in September.
This story contains information from the archives of the Seattle Times and Kaiser Health News.