By Don Meyer
TURLOCK, CA (February 22, 2013) – The pending acquisition of Emanuel Medical Center by the Tenet Healthcare Corporation likely comes as no surprise to those who follow the trend in U.S. healthcare favoring consolidation of institutions and services and the resulting increased efficiencies in response to escalating costs.
This is especially true for independent hospitals like Emanuel, which for 95 years has served residents of Turlock and the Central Valley of California, administered by Covenant Ministries of Benevolence (CMB) on behalf of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). Click here to read Thursday’s announcement.
“These continue to be challenging and uncertain times for healthcare providers,” said David Dwight, CMB president. “The healthcare sector is undergoing significant consolidation as providers seek to eliminate inefficiency and contain expenses in an environment of declining reimbursements and dramatic increases in the cost of providing care.”
Dwight pointed to recent healthcare reforms and the prospect of 75 million baby boomers heading into retirement and requiring increased care as further examples of the pressures driving the need for more cost-effective means of delivering high-quality care.
These pressures are especially acute for independent, stand-alone hospitals like Emanuel whose continued existence as independents Dwight sees as threatened. “Within the next several years, most community hospitals will have joined or affiliated with large regional or national health systems,” he predicts. “Given these realities, the boards of Emanuel Medical Center and Covenant Ministries of Benevolence entered into a process to evaluate the strategic options available to Emanuel Medical Center. This process led to the decision to position Emanuel with Tenet Healthcare as the best means of ensuring Emanuel’s continued service and ministry to the Turlock region.”
The desire to combat rising costs and retain services in a local community setting was not the only critical factor influencing the Emanuel decision, however. Ensuring the continued mission and ministry of the hospital was another essential component of a succession plan, notes Gary Walter, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
“Of significance to us, not only will quality medical care continue to serve the community, but our ethical commitments in areas like sanctity-of-life issues, as well as robust pastoral care and chaplaincy programs, also will continue,” Walter said. “Tenet has partnered with other faith-based hospitals, and we have been impressed with the ability to maintain a faith-based identity within the system.”
Dwight affirms the importance of ensuring the continuation of spiritual care that is part of Emanuel’s legacy. “It is essential that we maintain the Christian base in healthcare services, such as pastoral care, that has made Emanuel unique and distinctive as a healthcare provider, as well as continue to provide significant levels of charity care and community benefit.”
He also noted the continued economic benefit to the Turlock area – approximately 1,500 employees work at Emanuel Medical Center.
“I am pleased that Emanuel Medical Center will live on in the Turlock community,” Dwight said. “Yes, under different ownership, but providing the same distinctive patient-centered care that has distinguished the hospital for the last 95 years.”
The decision to sell Emanuel was reviewed and approved by the Emmanuel Medical Center board, the Board of Covenant Ministries of Benevolence, and the ECC Executive Board Finance Committee. The agreement does not include Brandel Manor, Cypress of Emanuel, Hospice of Emanuel, or Jessica’s House in Turlock, but solely the assets directly related to the hospital and its services.