Split: Centura Health’s two religious health care partner orgs will part ways

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Centura's Penrose St. Francis hospital is on the north side of the Springs. (File image)

The two health care organizations that make up Centura Health have decided to go their separate ways.

Centura, which manages Penrose St. Francis and St. Francis-Interquest in Colorado Springs (which will open this summer), announced the separation on Feb. 14.

Centura is a collaboration between CommonSpirit Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit Catholic medical systems, and AdventHealth, a Seventh-day Adventist Church-affiliated nonprofit system that operates in nine states.

The reason for the split is unclear at this time. 

There has been speculation, originally shared in the Colorado Sun, that it could be because of the two church-affiliated systems’ differing beliefs on abortion and other reproductive health care procedures. The Catholic hospitals’ stance on sterilization procedures, in particular, have recently come under fire in the state.

The Sun had previously reported that Centura’s Catholic-affiliated Mercy Hospital in Durango will stop providing tubal ligations — surgery in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked or cut — after cesarean-section procedures, starting in April. Five Colorado Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, who are in the Congressional Pro-choice Caucus, condemned the hospital’s change in a joint statement on Feb. 16, according to the Sun.

CommonSpirit Health and AdventHealth came together in 1996 to form Centura as a management company and operate 20 hospitals total in Colorado and western Kansas, a Centura press release says.

But now, that partnership “has reached its natural maturity,” the release says. The systems “have collaboratively agreed that they can best serve their communities and health care ministries without a partnership — with each organization directly managing their respective care sites.”

Penrose and St. Francis hospitals are under CommonSpirit Health and after a transition period, will be operated and managed by CommonSpirit instead of Centura, according to the release. Centura “will continue in its management role of the hospitals, physician clinics and other care sites throughout the transition,” it says, and “There will be no disruption to patient care.”

We reached out to Centura’s spokesperson about the end of tubal ligations at Mercy Hospital, and whether it would affect Centura’s Catholic hospitals here in the Springs. She instead directed us to Julie Lonborg, senior vice president of the Colorado Hospital Association, for questions about whether this is a new stance affecting all Catholic hospitals. 

It’s not — the Catholic Church has long prohibited “direct sterilization” procedures for both women and men, Lonborg says, citing the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services — or ERDs — a document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that dictates what care church-affiliated health providers may give. 

Mercy Hospital is likely correcting something they’ve been doing incorrectly, Lonborg speculates. Based on her experience in hospital administration, she believes that’s what Mercy meant in a statement where it said it “completed reeducation” of its staff on the ERDs, she says.

“I don’t know if that changed or what, but the ERDs have not changed,” Lonborg says. “This is something that Catholic hospitals are not supposed to practice. It’s really going back to something very fundamental for them.”

The change is more of an issue for residents in Durango, where Mercy Hospital is the only hospital with a maternity ward, the Democrat Congresspeople said in their statement. But in the Springs, there are other non-Catholic affiliated hospitals, like those run by UCHealth, for example, Lonborg says. 

Cary Vogrin, spokesperson for UCHealth’s Southern Colorado region, confirms with us that the system does perform tubal ligations. It operates three hospitals here in the Springs.

“I believe that there are numerous options in Colorado Springs,” Lonborg says. 

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