Local hospital may benefit from Dignity merger

Mark Twain Medical Center may see some changes in the coming months, due to the recent merger between Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI).

Under the umbrella of CommonSpirit Health, the two health systems have formed a nonprofit, Catholic organization based in Chicago that encompasses 700 care sites and 139 hospitals across 21 states, according to a press release issued by CommonSpirit Health on Feb. 1.

“Too many people still can’t access quality health care in their communities,” said Dignity Health President and CEO Lloyd H. Dean in the release. “America’s health care system needs big changes, and we have a big goal of improving the health of millions of people in this country. CommonSpirit Health will be a champion for the common good and extend access to good health for everyone, especially those who are most in need.”

Some of the “key areas” the new health system seeks to focus on are investing in technologies to make care “more convenient and personal,” expanding services outside of the hospital to homes and communities, and identifying “underlying causes” of poor health and advocating for improvements within communities.

However, one thing that won’t be changing is the Mark Twain and Dignity brands. All Dignity and CHI facilities will be keeping their names.

With the new lease agreement with Dignity Health at Mark Twain Medical Center closing by the end of the month, Executive Director of the Mark Twain Health Care District Dr. Randall Smart sat down with the Enterprise to discuss the coming changes patients and staff may encounter in regard to the merger.

“It will be late spring or early summer when new things start to come,” said Smart, who emphasized that it will take some time for the district’s new board, CEO and management to sit down and “decide who we are and where we need to go next.”

Smart said that the district is “excited” about the merger and new lease – especially in regard to the increased experience in rural areas that CHI brings to the table.

“Rural hospitals are really vulnerable, and they’re still closing,” Smart said, citing projections that roughly 400 rural hospitals will shut down within the next five years. “When you look at Mark Twain and its vulnerability, what you really need is a strong partnership to keep it out of financial trouble. Dignity Health has 39 hospitals, only two rural. What they do well is urban hospitals and they’re a good financial partner. But when you look at this merger with CHI – they are a rural health care provider out of Chicago with something like 100 hospitals in their portfolio and (roughly) 30 are critical-access rural hospitals.”

Some benefits that may come from the merger are better community outreach and telehealth access for virtual health care settings, Smart said. Internally, Mark Twain Medical Center will be able to collaborate with other rural hospitals and “find out what is best practice” to stay open and thriving.

“This is a huge merger in health care that makes them the third-biggest in the country,” Smart said. “Our little medical center will be part of that. … We don’t have a lot and this kind of thing is such a great opportunity for all the people that live here. ”

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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