Faith-based health care new concept for East following Memorial-CHI merger

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - On top of the name change, Memorial Health Systems of East Texas will be in new territory once the merger is complete.

In its 65 years, Memorial has not been faith-based, however, Catholic Health Initiative is.

This means Memorial will have to adopt CHI's four core values.

Faith-based hospitals are popping up all over the country, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site claims nearly 630 Catholic hospitals account for 12.6 percent of the community hospitals in the nation.

However, faith-based health care is a new concept for Lufkin.

"We're not a faith based organization, but you couldn't tell it by the people who work here and the way we behave and by the culture of the communities we serve," said Gary Looper, the president and CEO of Memorial Health Systems of East Texas."

Come May, Memorial will have a whole new perspective on health care, and becoming faith-based means there are a few rules they will have to abide by.

First, they will have to live by Catholic Health Initiative's four core values. According to CHI's Web site, those four core values include: reverence - the respect for all creation, integrity of trust and truthfulness, compassion for others' joy and sorrow and excellence - becoming a benchmark for professional health care.

CHI's Catholic background prompted concerns about what services might leave Memorial as a result of the merger. For instance, last year, Houston station KTRK reported that St. Luke's would no longer offer birth control or infertility treatment to patients after it was bought by CHI.

During a phone interview Friday morning, Kyle Middleton, the vice president of theology and ethics for CHI the phone told East Texas News that was St. Luke's decision and not CHI's.

"Our position here is that birth control and other issues like that are between the physician and the patient," Middleton said.

CHI is known for its charity work, especially with local churches, and when asked if they would  work with only Catholics, Middleton said  they consider themselves to be universal and will work with all churches and aren't going to turn away a patient just because they have a different religion.

The merger will, again, bring in new jobs and expand the economy exponentially, so despite the faith addition, the community is pretty positive about the change.

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