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Irish newspaper reports Dignity Health may expand to Ireland

December 10, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

The Irish Examiner is reporting that San Francisco-based Dignity Health is exploring expansion of its operations to Ireland. If the expansion took place, the hospital system founded by the Irish Sisters of Mercy would be returning to its roots.

Dignity executives visited Ireland in mid-November, the newspaper reported Nov. 30, and reportedly spoke with up to six Irish hospitals about forming partnerships or acquiring them. Dignity Health representatives also met with Bon Secours in Cork, one of the largest independent hospitals in Europe, the Irish Examiner reported.

In a statement to Catholic San Francisco, Dignity Health said: “Like many in the health care industry, Dignity Health is in discussions with a number of organizations to learn from them and to explore opportunities to strengthen our ministry. During a recent visit to Ireland, Dignity Health representatives sought to learn more about the Irish health care system and to explore the possibility of sharing expertise. We did both and look forward to a future visit.”

Dignity is the fifth largest health system in the United States, with 39 hospitals in Arizona, Nevada and California. Twenty two are Catholic institutions after a reorganization in 2012 intended to segregate the Catholic institutions from the others. The change was given a “nihil obstat” by then Archbishop George Niederauer, saying nothing in the change conflicted with church teaching.

Dignity Health began with St. Mary’s Hospital, founded by the Irish Sisters of Mercy shortly after eight sisters arrived in San Francisco in 1854. The hospital is the oldest continuously operating hospital in the city. The Sisters of Mercy were founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland in 1831, to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education.

In 1986, two congregations of the Sisters of Mercy joined their 10 hospitals together, forming Catholic Healthcare West. In 2012, the health system reorganized again becoming Dignity Health which is no longer Catholic but contains 22 Catholic hospitals which comply with the Catholic bishops’ ethical and religious directives for Catholic hospitals, according to Dignity.

The Examiner reported that Irish Health Minister Leo Varadkar told television station RTÉ he was not aware whether Dignity Health was considering health care ventures in Ireland.

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