Once negotiations are finalized later this year, Catholic Health Partners will acquire minority ownership stake in Akron’s Summa Health System. Announcing the partnership last week, Summa officials emphasized that a major factor in the choice was the shared values, vision and mission between the local institution, which is one of the dominant providers of health services in Northeast Ohio and Summit County’s largest employer, and the Cincinnati-based Catholic hospital system, the largest health system in the state.
Clearly, at a time health care nationwide is undergoing rapid change, the alliance opens new avenues for the two nonprofits, with their considerable resources, to help restructure the way health care is delivered, managed and funded in Ohio.
Still, a pertinent question regarding the partnership is how Summa’s policies, both as a provider of health services and an employer, might be affected by a partnership with a prominent faith-based organization with the religious values and reach of Catholic Health Partners. After all, the Catholic Church, on behalf of its affiliated institutions, is engaged in a very public fight with the Obama White House over provisions in the Affordable Care Act regarding coverage of contraception and other reproductive services.
Summa officials acknowledge the apprehension of clients who do not share the views of religious organizations, especially as they translate into policies about women’s health. Summa affirms that as the partner with majority ownership, its policies will remain unaffected by the religious views of the minority owner. That offers some relief.