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Sylvania Franciscan Health finds partner

Deal with health-care system in Colorado focused on costs


Sylvania Franciscan Health announced Wednesday that it plans to join Catholic Health Initiatives, a health-care system in Colorado.

According to a nonbinding letter of intent signed by both groups, the $1 billion Franciscan health operation — made up of hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement communities in Kentucky, Ohio, and Texas owned and operated by the Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania — would become affiliated with the Catholic Health Initiatives.

The tentative agreement would bring St. Clare Commons, an assisted living senior and rehabilitation complex in Perrysburg, under the umbrella of CHI. The $40 million facility on Five Point Road opened last year.

The health-care systems hope to complete the deal in the fall, with the dozen employees in the Fransican Health office in Sylvania expected to be retained.

“We are excited about the possibility of joining CHI, whose culture and values are in alignment with those of our sisters. After a substantial due diligence process to find a potential partner that shares our commitment to patients, as well as the mission of Catholic healthcare, we are confident CHI will enable us to continue our vision as well as the Franciscan charism that is our foundation,” Jim Pope, CEO and president of Sylvania Franciscan Health, said in a news release.

The transaction will require approvals from the congregational minister and general council of the Sisters of St. Francis and Catholic Health Initiative’s board of stewardship trustees.

Authorities in the Catholic church and federal and state agencies also will review the agreement.

Barbara Gessel, Sylvania Franciscan Health’s senior vice president, human resources and communications, said the proposed partnership follows the national trend of smaller health-care systems joining larger ones to provide expanded services and care on a regional basis.

The planned affiliation, she said, stems from the escalating health-care costs, and not driven by changes mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“We have one of the highest costs for health-care systems in the world, and that is just not sustainable. Something was going to have to change in how we handle health care,” she said.

Sister Nancy Surma, senior vice president, mission integration, said the average age of the St. Francis sisters is 75 and there are 164 nuns in the community. That compares with 238 sisters who belonged to the order 10 years ago, she said.

However, “this decision was not driven by the fact that we are an aging congregation,” Sister Surma said. “Our primary purpose is to ensure the long-term viability of the ministries serving the locations where we have been for many years.”

Catholic Health Initiatives, of Englewood, Colo., is the country’s third largest religious health-care system.

It operates in 18 states and includes 87 hospitals; 40 long-term care, assisted, and residential living facilities; two academic medical centers; two community health-services organizations; two accredited nursing colleges; and home-health agencies.

Kevin Lofton, chief executive of the company, said: “We are pleased that Sylvania Franciscan Health wants to be part of the CHI family. SFH’s health ministries in Ohio, Texas, and Kentucky will be strengthened through their alignment with other CHI organizations. The Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania have created a strong foundation for Catholic health care, and our shared values merge to strengthen the delivery of highly reliable, quality care across the system.”

The proposed affiliation will not affect operations of the sisters’ local health-care ministry, including Bethany House, Our Lady of Grace, Rosary Care Center, the Sophia Center, Convent Park apartments, and Lourdes University.

Those facilities will continue under the control of the sisters.

Contact Mark Reiter at: or 419-724-6199.

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