Methodist Hospitals wants to put community at ease on merger - June 2, 2017

Courtesy of The Gary 411 • June 2, 2017

Contributed By:The 411 News

CEO Grady: This will make us stronger

What’s good for The Methodist Hospitals and what worries some hospital staff and community members about the proposed merger with Franciscan Health Alliance got a hearing at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting held at Ivy Tech Community College.

In March, both hospital systems announced they had agreed to an intent to merge to be followed by a 120-day due diligence process during which the hospitals would review and further define the details of their proposed relationships before finalizing an agreement.

Ray Grady, the CEO of Methodist Hospitals said his hospital sought the merger, recognizing the changing landscape in health care has led to more hospital consolidations leaving independents to face more risks. “This will make us stronger. We selected a partner with a demonstrated commitment to enhancing health care in our community,” he said. Franciscan approves of the Methodist plan to build a new $300 million hospital in Gary, near I-80/94 and likely closer to Indiana University Northwest.

Grady was among panel members at the meeting along with Lorenzo Crowell, chapter president of the local Service Employees International Union. Nearly 600 of Methodist Hospitals staff at its Gary and Merrillville locations are SEIU members. They work in food service, housekeeping, and clerical positions.

Crowell said Franciscan Alliance is non-union. Although Grady said the union will remain under the Franciscan partnership, Crowell said, “I won’t believe it until I see it in writing.”

In a question and answer session, the hospital CEO rebuffed fears from employees about reductions in salaries and benefits, and reduced services at the Gary location. “If you look at Franciscan’s benefits, you’ll see they are better than at Methodist,” Grady said, “… and we’re joining in this partnership so we can grow our services.”

Dr. Deborah McCullough, OB/GYN is on the staff at Methodist and provides fertility and reproductive services, some that are not permitted at hospitals owned by religious-based institutions. Franciscan’s parent organization is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and does not offer contraceptives, tubal ligations, abortions, and D&Cs.

“We’ve carved out dollars to set up organizations that can provide those services,” Grady said. Even with that, Dr. McCullough said, physicians who’ve already paid to join the Methodist staff will have to pay again to be affiliated with the new organization.

A hurdle for the merger is the 1975 U.S. Office of Civil Rights Consent Decree that Methodist agreed to provide equal investments in its Gary and Merrillville locations. The consent decree resulted from the lawsuit filed by then Mayor Hatcher when Methodist was pursuing a shift from Gary to Merrillville.

Because of the changes in the delivery of health care since then, Grady said, “The Consent Decree acts as a drag on the communities it was intended to protect.”

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, also a panel member said, “My position is that it is appropriate to review the Consent Decree and make the necessary changes to make it stronger.”

She added, “I also think that sunset could be a possibility in the future but it would require assurances that Gary citizens would have the same access to healthcare, Methodist employees would have jobs, the successor hospital would remain committed to the community, a new hospital would be built, and there would be a continuing use for the existing campus.”