Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Growth and our Identity

As we journey through the final weeks of 2007, it seems appropriate to reflect on the major activities that will occur in the new year for CHRISTUS. Obviously, one of our largest and most important facets in 2008 will be our growth initiatives. These will involve building new hospitals like the one under construction in the Westover Hills area of San Antonio and in Reynosa, Mexico; acquiring health systems like McKenna in New Braunfels, Texas; and partnering with health systems and/or physicians like our joint venture with physicians in Houston and our partnership with St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in New Mexico.

Each growth opportunity obviously has its own business plan and is driven by unique assumptions and market assessments. However, they all share our desire to expand our ministry with commitment to our mission, vision and values and branded by our Journey to Excellence.

We at CHRISTUS Health believe that there is a true advantage to being a Catholic, faith-based organization and expanding our Catholic identity and faith-based principles of behavior into new facilities and programs.

What do we mean exactly by “Catholic identity?” Although one might believe that this would mean the desire to impose the Catholic faith onto the people we serve, the reality is just the opposite. Because of the teachings of the church, CHRISTUS Health adheres to the belief that all people are equal and should be treated with the highest quality and service possible, delivered in the most kind and compassionate fashion. This means that all people of all races and faiths--as well as non-believers--will be welcomed and cared for within CHRISTUS hospitals, outpatient clinics and in all other facilities.

In the U.S., Catholic health care is guided by a set of principles which are captured in a document called the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs). These principles are very robust, and dictate the need to be focused above all on the dignity and worth of each person. These principles mandate that not only our patients, but their families, our Associates and our physicians must be treated in just and fair ways.

As a result, we put into place a Service Guarantee for our patients in 2000 and created an Associate Covenant in 2001 as well as a Physician Compact in the same year. The latter two documents clearly state what CHRISTUS is pledged to do for its Associates and physicians, and articulates CHRISTUS’ expectations in return.

After studying these documents carefully, one would see that the major focus is on the development of positive relationships and the commitment to create the ideal workplace, where again, all people—regardless of their spiritual orientation—are treated justly and fairly.

Our Catholic identity also gives us the ability to create environments within our facility (such as chapels) where people of all faiths can meditate and reflect and hopefully gain strength to face the problems which they are often encountering when they are within our facilities.

Catholic identity also allows people to be comfortable in expressing their fears and the ability to openly ask for spiritual support during their difficult times, whether this takes the form of a visit from a chaplain of their faith, a request for a prayer, or merely a conversation with one of the Associates or physicians. Yes, our Catholic identity and the ERDs compel us to be open to spiritual requests from all and to create an environment where there is zero tolerance for prejudice from a racial, economic, or religious viewpoint.

I have repeatedly said since becoming the team leader for CHRISTUS Health nine years ago that if I was seeking another job opportunity elsewhere, it would have to be in a Catholic, faith-based health care system. Although I have worked in three other systems in the past where I believe people were comfortable in treating everyone who presented themselves, it is the well-documented principles in the ERDs and the resulting policies and procedures that guarantee on a consistent basis that everyone will be treated equally and with dignity regardless of their ability to pay, their immigration documentation, the color of their skin, or their religious tradition. To me, this is an integral part of excellent health care and energizes CHRISTUS’ Journey to Excellence. Embracing the ERDs is a strong, visible demonstration for everyone with whom we will partner, assuring that the care rendered in connection with the CHRISTUS name will be equal for all and of the highest standard possible as we continue our Journey to Excellence.

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