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Epilogue This book has depicted the early historical tensions that Catholic hospitals faced while striving to retain their religious identities in an increasingly competitive secular marketplace. It is abundantly clear that these issues continue to be played out in Catholic nursing congregations throughout the country. As sisters compete for patients, staff, and reimbursements in today’s hospital marketplace, some fear they are getting away from their original purpose of helping those most in need. To that end, many nursing congregations are getting out of the hospital business altogether, while others redirect their health care into new services.1 The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word have continued medical and nursing services in Texas, across the United States, and Mexico. Change was in the air in the 1980s, which brought a revolution in hospital reimbursement as health-care expenditures took on a greater percentage of the Gross Domestic Product. In response, the federal government and private insurance payers began capping hospital reimbursements. Due to increasing costs, duplication of services, and a large debt, in 1991 the Incarnate Word Sisters sold St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth to the Daughters of Charity Health System-West Central, after over a hundred years of service.2 In 1999, the Incarnate Word Health System merged with the Sisters of Charity Health Care System to become CHRISTUS Health. It now includes more than forty hospitals and facilities in five American states and Mexico, with assets of more than $3.4 billion. As a component of that system, Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, the city’s first private hospital, is now a 400-plus bed general acute-care facility and is still located in the heart of the city.3 In 1987, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet merged St. Joseph’s 192 Wall_Epi_3rd.qxd 4/11/2005 3:01 PM Page 192 Hospital in St. Paul into the Health East System, along with two Lutheran facilities and one Baptist hospital.Then in 1991, the sisters sold St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis to Fairview Health System.The nuns could no longer obtain the financial resources needed to keep St. Mary’s a “state of the art” institution that would meet demand for a broader array of services in Minnesota’s competitive environment. These decisions caused dissension among the sisters, their congregational leadership, and the local residents.4 But the women had other health-care ministries in mind. In the 1990s, they began a system of clinics that served those who could not afford health insurance and who did not qualify for subsidized government health programs. In 1973, the Sisters of the Holy Cross withdrew sponsorship from St. Mary’s Hospital in Cairo, Illinois. The racial situation had always been tense, and the charged atmosphere did not improve during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Fiery crosses burned on the hospital lawn after the sisters ended the century-long segregation of hospital wards, a decision that the medical staff opposed. By 1972, the hospital was in dire financial straits, and the sisters could not get assistance from the state or the city. Some members of the media blamed the hospital’s closing on the attitudes of local city officials and their continued discrimination against African Americans. The mayor blamed “fiscal mismanagement over the past ten years.” Other sources attributed the closing to the shortage of physicians. Once again, however, the sisters did not measure their successes in monetary value alone. One historian of the congregation stated, “Not only did the Sisters work hard in the hospital, bringing healing to the sick and dying. They also brought lost Catholics back to the Church, [and] baptized countless babies and adults when they were at death’s door.”5 On October 4, 1993, the Wall Street Journal announced the intent of the Sisters of the Holy Cross to sell Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City to HealthTrust, Inc., a for-profit company that operated hospitals in twenty-one states.6 Church law required the sale of Catholic facilities valued at greater than $3 million to be approved by the Vatican, based on the local bishop’s recommendation. Bishop William Weigand of Salt Lake City made the required recommendation at the sisters’ request, but only with the understanding that they would do everything possible to find a Catholic buyer. After the October announcement, the bishop learned that another Catholic health system had been interested in buying Holy Cross Hospital, and he tried to persuade the...


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