The following op-ed appeared in the Orange County Register Click here to view the article.

March 10, 2021

Providence is committed to upholding its mission and integrity: Erik Wexler

A van with doses of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrives at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA, on Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

For almost 100 years, Providence and its founders have provided compassionate, quality care to advance the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve. Last year, our family of hospitals and medical groups treated 630,000 patients in our emergency departments, provided 973,000 outpatient visits and delivered 28,000 babies for families throughout Southern California. In Orange County alone, we provided $143 million in overall community benefit with $21 million in direct support to our community partners who share our mission to serve those in need.

Our heroes have cared for thousands of COVID-19 patients, teaming across Providence and Hoag to enhance safety and share innovations in treating this new virus. We continue to treat patients, to follow up with those who have recovered and now are grateful to be one of the largest providers of vaccines.

Yet, while health systems battle the worst global pandemic since 1918, representatives of Hoag Memorial Presbyterian filed a lawsuit and have undertaken a negative publicity campaign against Providence and the non-profit corporation that has governance oversight over the Providence-affiliated hospitals in Southern California, Covenant Health Network, for the sole purpose of disaffiliating with our organization in Orange County.

We will always uphold our mission and integrity by speaking truth to rumor and ensuring our community has the facts.

As an affiliate of Providence, Hoag has always been allowed to make its own choices and has never been prevented from taking any action or decision it wished to take, including the provision of women’s services. As was reported in a May 2013 Los Angeles Times article, a Hoag executive stated that at no point did St. Joseph pressure Hoag to change its policy on elective abortions.

Additionally, Hoag has its own discretion whether to use clinical protocols, supply chain contracts, or other system-scale initiatives – nothing has ever been forced upon Hoag, ideas and suggestions have only ever been offered up for consideration.

As an affiliate of Providence, Hoag has the right to pursue its own payer contracts and has always had this right since the affiliation began. However, last year, even after dozens of requests not to, Hoag removed itself from the HMO contracts we jointly negotiated over the years and did so fully understanding that the continued participation of Hoag-affiliated specialists within the existing network would be terminated.

Providence’s focus remains on the needs of the people of Orange County. We’ve partnered with local mental health organizations such as Be Well OC, which recently held the grand opening of its Be Well OC Campus in Orange, the first mental health and wellness campus of its kind in the area. Providence is also a proud supporter of United Way. At the start of the pandemic, Providence St. Jude Medical Center and Providence Mission Hospital contributed $300,000 to United Way’s Pandemic Relief Fund, which has to date supported more than 7,695 low-income Orange County families at risk of homelessness due to loss of income.

Providence’s belief has always been that our patients, providers and all of our stakeholders in the Orange County community are stronger together than apart. We look forward to the opportunity to present the facts, including the benefits of the affiliation in Orange County – and all Southern California communities served by Providence — and to share our story in the court proceedings.

Erik G. Wexler is president of operations and strategy for Providence-South.