Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Catholic Health Care Faces Familiar Squeeze

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Catholic Health Care Faces Familiar Squeeze

Article excerpt

Catholic health care has become a reflection of our changing economic times.

The chill winds of competition blowing through Catholic hospital corridors are one with the chill winds testing the U.S. economy generally.

As it becomes more and more difficult for Catholic hospitals -- founded not to maximize profits but to serve -- to survive, so it becomes more difficult for any caring or decent organization to make it, economically.

Some entities within Catholic health care may gain the whole world. That is, they may gain the world of their immediate service area in this streamlined medical model. Will they also suffer the loss of their own soul?

If losing one's organizational identity, one's founding charism, equates with losing one's soul, there is a danger. Catholic colleges and universities face the same challenge. Or conundrum.

Many Catholic institutions are trying to guard against the loss, but it has to be said that, at the very least, the central tenet of service and care is being diluted when the "bottom line" -- not the patient -- must come first in the corporation's survival stakes.

For many chief executive officers there is a sense of loss of control because events occur so rapidly that success becomes just keeping up, just staying alive. And again, this is where Catholic health care reflects the larger phenomenon.

For the same is happening to the U.S. economy generally. Within U.S. business there were always some firms and corporations that tried to be decent to customers and employers. There was a time when elements within the U.S. corporate culture -- at its best, and never throughout -- were proud to provide employee benefits, pensions, education programs as part of their ways of doing business.

Whatever their faults, the Bell Labs and IBMs, AT&Ts and others -- some held accountable by unions, others by government regulation -- were generally good places to work because their mission was to do well financially and do well corporately by the employees. …

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