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Vatican asks Mercy to address LR bishop’s concerns

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published November 19, 2012 at 7:22 a.m. Updated November 19, 2012 at 8:15 a.m.

— The Vatican has asked Mercy to engage in further discussions with the Diocese of Little Rock to address Bishop Anthony B. Taylor’s concerns about the transfer of ownership of Mercy Hot Springs to Capella Healthcare.

Taylor, in a statement released in April, expressed “serious reservations” about the purchase of Mercy Hot Springs, formerly St. Joseph’s Mercy Health System, to Capella, the parent company of National Park Medical Center.

Specifically, Taylor said, he was concerned about the “negative impact this purchase could have on the medical care available to the poor and on the Hot Springs community in general.”

In September, Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn., and Mercy Health announced they had signed an asset purchase agreement for the two Hot Springs organizations to merge under Capella’s ownership.

A news release at the time said the final phase of the sale was expected to take 60 to 90 days, subject to regulatory and Vatican approval.

Mercy’s relationship to the Catholic Church requires approval from the Vatican.

Mercy released the following statement late Saturday:

“Mercy has received a response from the Vatican regarding our request to transfer ownership of Mercy Hot Springs (formerly St. Joseph’s Mercy Health System) to Capella Healthcare. Rather than provide approval or denial of our petition at this time, the Vatican has asked that Mercy engage in further discussions with Bishop Anthony Taylor to address his concerns about ongoing care for the poor, the continuation of the Ethical and Religious Directives and the impact of the transition on coworkers. We have reached out to Bishop Taylor and Capella to arrive at a solution agreeable to all, and remain committed to health care that is in the best interests of the community of Hot Springs.”

Taylor in April said the diocese “had no role in the negotiations leading to this proposal, nor was it consulted prior to the signing of the agreement in principle by those two institutions — in apparent violation of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services is issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The sale was submitted for Federal Trade Commission approval earlier this year.

According to www.advancinghotspringshealth.com, a website established jointly by Mercy and Capella to answer the public’s questions about the proposed sale, the FTC has requested additional information.

“As expected, we received a request for additional information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as it relates to our goal of bringing together NPMC and Mercy Hot Springs as one unified health system,” the website says.

“As you can imagine, bringing together two organizations the size of NPMC and Mercy Hot Springs is very complex and there are many steps. It’s important to know that requests like this from the FTC are commonplace and expected in this type of transaction,” it said.

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RBBrittain says... November 19, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.

Taylor apparently wants to force Capella to follow Catholic doctrine on abortion & contraception (i.e., "no" under virtually all circumstances); that's the key objective of the "Ethical and Religious Directives" he's referring to. Problem is, the Ethical and Religious Directives call for local bishops like Taylor to approve "partnerships" like the UAMS/St. Vincent proposal, but *NOT* an outright sale of a Catholic hospital as was proposed in Hot Springs...

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