Memorial Health System of East Texas now CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial

Memorial Health System of East Texas now CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Officials with Memorial Health System of East Texas, which is now owned by Catholic Health Initiatives, held a press conference Thursday to announce the new name of its health system.

Lufkin's Memorial Hospital will now be known as CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial.

CHI announced its merger with Memorial Health System of East Texas on Jan. 9, and the transfer of ownership was effective on June 1.

CHI is a non-profit faith based health system that operates in 18 states.

Thursday's announcement also revealed a partnership the hospital will have with St.Luke's Hospital out of Houston.

"We decided the best thing to do was look to the future and bring the name of St. Luke's Health here which has national prominence, really worldwide recognition," said Market CEO Gary Looper.

Officials at the press conference said they were excited about the relationship the two will share.

"We will be able to add a lot of specialties that they may not otherwise have here," said Sr. Vice President of CHI's Texas region Michael Covert. "Our association with Baylor will make the difference to be able to support clinicians in this area which means citizens will be able to be here in their care and not go outside the community."

"We have services here that St.Luke's does not have in Houston," Looper said. "We have a long-term acute care hospital that is the only one in the St.Luke's network. We've started working with them for patient referrals here to Lufkin."

The name change and partnership will also affect the Memorial facilities in Livingston and San Augustine.

"When you have outlying and rural clinics, the ability to provide support becomes important," Covert said. "Not only is St. Luke's going to be able to provide that, but remember, CHI has had a privileged of operating small and rural clinics and hospitals so  they have an appreciation for the needs of those facilities."

"We imagine, Livingston, because of its proximity to Houston and St.Luke's may get a greater benefit," Looper said.

Hospital officials also said that there is not a need for concern over job cuts. CHI officials said there are no planned cuts right now, and they continue to need qualified staff to meet the quality of work the hospital is known for.

"In January, we will have a ribbon cutting for a new radiation and oncology service," Looper said. "We'll be opening a new CAT lab service between now and then, probably in October."

Before the press conference, hospital staff were first presented with the name change.

"When we released the name, all of the staff was really excited," said spokesperson Yana Ogletree. "Some were standing up and cheering. They were very excited."

In a previous interview, Looper said  the biggest change on paper for Memorial is shifting from a traditional to a religious organization, but Looper said it won't be too much different than normal.

"I say all the time that Memorial is not a faith-based organization, but that you wouldn't know it by the people that work here, or the way we behave," said Looper. "When we close on the transaction, we will actually dedicate our facilities to become religious facilities and religious institutions, and before and after that, we'll practice a very high degree of faith-based ethics."

And with faith-based ethics, there are certain medical procedures that will no longer be offered.

"The most common procedures that you think of that's not practiced in a faith-based organization are sterilization procedures, whereby a new mom wants to have her tubes tied for example," said Looper. "Fortunately for most of the patients in our area, they have alternatives, so that will not be a significant, if any, of an inconvenience for the patients."

Looper said, "Obviously faith-based organizations don't practice abortion, and we don't anyway, so that's not a change that we have to make."

"The things that attracted us to CHI and them to us is our mission, and we provide care for all patients regardless of race, creed, or financial status, and CHI is the same way. They are a mission-driven organization with a strong ministry to create healthy populations, and we practice very much the same way so our culture's and our mission's line up very closely," Looper said.

Looper added today that even though the name change goes into effect immediately, signage will not change for several weeks.

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