Acquisition of St. Joseph final today

Posted July 28, 2010, at 8:45 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — At a signing ceremony today, St. Joseph Healthcare will complete its acquisition by Covenant Health Systems, a Catholic health care organization based in Lexington, Mass., with member facilities throughout New England. The corporate merger has been in the works since 2001.

According to Sister Mary Norberta, president and CEO of St. Joseph Healthcare, patients will see no change in the medical staff, the quality of care or the range of services provided by the local organization and its affiliates. Administrative decisions will be made at the local level, and hospital executives will still be accountable to a locally appointed board, she said.

But after 30 years at St. Joseph Hospital and St. Joseph Healthcare, and 28 years as CEO, Sister Norberta said she expects to retire in 2011.

“This is a good time for a change,” she said. A committee will be named later this year to launch the search for her replacement.

The goal of the merger with Covenant is to stabilize St. Joseph Healthcare financially and organizationally, Norberta said, ensuring its long-term presence in Bangor and the continuation of its spiritual mission.

As a member organization, St. Joseph will be able to take advantage of administrative support, group buying discounts, and funding for capital projects.

In addition to meeting a plethora of legal and regulatory guidelines established for health care organizations, the acquisition has been subject to ongoing scrutiny by the Catholic Church for compliance with canon law.

“This [transition] had to be approved in Rome,” Norberta said.

David R. Lincoln, president and CEO of Covenant Health Systems, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the merger with St. Joseph Healthcare would enhance both organizations.

“We know firsthand of [St. Joseph’s] dedication to the Catholic health ministry and the communities they serve and of their strong commitment to their employees,” he said. “The transfer will allow St. Joseph to utilize more services of a regional delivery network and we look forward to having the talents of the St. Joseph staff enhance our system.”

Norberta said St. Joseph Healthcare will maintain some organizational ties with the Felician Congregation of North America, which founded St. Joseph Hospital 63 years ago. Five Felician Sisters — including Norberta — currently working in management and administrative positions at St. Joseph Healthcare will continue their employment there. St. Joseph Healthcare is the last of several health care facilities around the country affiliated with the order to opt for membership in a larger corporate organization, she said.

On Friday of this week, the transition to Covenant membership will be celebrated during a special Mass in the chapel at St. Joseph Hospital.

St. Joseph Healthcare is the corporate parent of St. Joseph Hospital, St. Joseph Home Care and Hospice, the Center for Sleep Medicine and a number of physician practices.

Other Covenant facilities in Maine include Saint Mary’s Healthcare in Lewiston and the St. Andre Health Care Facility in Biddeford.

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