March 2, 2021

Community Update: Setting the Record Straight

In 2013, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian joined St. Joseph Health, aware that we are better together. Providence and its founders have continued that tradition of collaboration to meet the health and social needs of Orange County. Patients benefit from our shared resources and dedication to quality, innovation and compassion to provide the best possible care from birth through the golden years.

But just a few months into the pandemic, Hoag went public with its desire to end its affiliation with Providence. Unfortunately, a negative publicity campaign has been spreading inaccuracies about our partnership and our organization. We would like to directly address the most concerning of these claims in order to set the record straight.

Read on to learn the facts:

Q: Did Providence force Hoag out of the Heritage network?

A: Absolutely not. In actuality, Hoag chose to leave the Heritage network because they sought to pursue their own HMO contracts. Hoag made this decision with the full knowledge that choosing to pursue their own contracts would directly result in the provider network being terminated. This potential outcome was communicated to Hoag dozens of times, including in writing, and it was made clear to all parties. Providence did not wish for the Hoag-affiliated specialists to leave the network, as we have always believed that we are better able to provide for the health and wellness of Orange County when we work together. As such, Providence is more than willing to reinstate the provider network should Hoag choose to rejoin the HMO contracts within the affiliation.

Q: Why are Hoag’s facilities in Orange County no longer listed on Providence’s website?

A: After informing Hoag of Providence’s updated brand identity rollout, Hoag insisted that they not be listed in any social media, advertisements, marketing or community education materials where this new branding would be used. Providence made numerous attempts to dissuade Hoag, however they persisted. Subsequently, Providence respected Hoag’s request to not be listed within Providence’s updated branding unless otherwise approved by their founders and board. If Hoag receives those approvals, or requests that they now be included, Providence would be pleased to include Hoag as an affiliate on our website, as they are a valued member of our family of organizations in Orange County.

Q: Did Providence pressure Hoag to discontinue performing elective abortions?

A: No. Based on the requirements of the attorney general in the affiliation agreements, Hoag is not bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare and they therefore have no impact on Hoag’s ability to provide services it chooses to offer. From the very start of our affiliation, Hoag has always been allowed to make its own choices, including whether or not to perform certain procedures. In fact, reported in multiple Los Angeles Times articles and a 2013 Daily Pilot Op-Ed, Hoag’s President and CEO, Robert Braithwaite, clarified that Hoag’s decision to discontinue elective abortions was not a result of pressure by then-St. Joseph Health. Instead, Hoag felt they could “best serve women in our community” by “collaborating with organizations that offer more comprehensive and integrated services, such as Planned Parenthood, UC Irvine’s Women’s Options program and other providers.”

Q: Why is the California Attorney General investigating Providence?

A: The California Attorney General sent a letter to Providence and Hoag to look into whether the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives are or have been applied to services performed by Hoag obstetrician/gynecologists. This new inquiry appears to stem at least in part from misrepresentations that have been made concerning our affiliation from an ongoing negative publicity campaign directed at Providence. The truth is that the California Attorney General’s office has been monitoring the provision of health services by Hoag for many years, going back to the beginning of our affiliation nearly a decade ago. Under the affiliation, Hoag has never been prevented from taking any action or decision that it wished to take. As an affiliate of Providence, Hoag is not bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare, and therefore they have no impact on Hoag’s ability to provide services it chooses to offer. This is a requirement that is contained in the affiliation agreement.

Q: What are Providence physicians saying?

A: Physicians are speaking out on Providence’s affiliation and commitment to working with Hoag colleagues for the best patient care. Read their open letter to the community.

In response to false claims appearing in recent Los Angeles Times opinion columns, physicians with Providence are correcting the record. The following Letters to the Editor were submitted to the Los Angeles Times:

Dr. Terese Hammond, M.D., Providence Saint John’s Health Center

photo of Dr. Connie Bartlett

A top California hospital says it’s the target of retaliation by a giant Catholic healthcare chain” fails to recognize the collaborative relationship that many Providence specialty physicians have maintained with their trusted Hoag colleagues.

As the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and critical care unit director at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, I can attest to the collegiality we maintain with our Hoag counterparts. We have consistently worked together to maintain access for Hoag patients who have required higher-level care during the pandemic, especially with the very high volume of COVID in Orange County. In fact, we’ve transferred patients to our facility for ECMO at the request of their Hoag physicians.

Beyond the politics of Hoag’s move to disaffiliate from Providence, the doctors on the ground both at Hoag and Providence cherish their relationships and continue to work diligently to ensure patients have access to life-saving care during these difficult times.”

Dr. David Kim, Chief Executive, St. Joseph Heritage Health

photo of Dr. Connie Bartlett

“It’s unfortunate that Hoag Memorial Hospital has brought private negotiations over its decision to end its affiliation with Providence to the public stage, and even more troubling that its mouthpiece is an L.A. Times columnist with a well-documented disdain for Catholic health care.

Mr. Hilzik’s article is filled with extraordinary inaccuracies, completely ignoring Providence’s responses to his clarifying questions and composing an imbalanced column contrary to the facts. Hoag’s assertion that Providence terminated Hoag specialists from its network in retaliation is simply untrue.

It was very much Hoag’s deliberate decision to pursue its own HMO contracts, fully aware that creating a competing network would result in the termination of Hoag-affiliated specialists from the network. We were disappointed with this decision, certain that our communities would be better served together. The choice to pursue separate contracts and leave our network was Hoag’s alone, and it did so fully knowing the consequences not only to its physicians, but our shared patients.”

Dr. Connie Bartlett, D.O., St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group

photo of Dr. Connie Bartlett

“I was extremely disappointed to read the February 19 column, “A top California hospital says it’s the target of retaliation by a giant Catholic healthcare chain,” due to the many false claims about Providence, which is far from my firsthand experience as a pediatrician with the organization.

During a time of great strain on health care providers and the communities we serve, it’s frankly shocking that Hoag would file a lawsuit and then spend energy spreading falsehoods about our organization. We accept that Hoag will end its affiliation, but this can be done without disparaging one another.

Providence is committed to sharing expertise among its hospitals to provide the best possible patient care – qualities driving exemplary care through the pandemic. As a pediatrician passionate about holistic care, I am proud to come to work every day knowing that Providence cares just as much about my patients as I do.”