ALTON – Last weekend, passersby may have noticed the erection of all-new signage at a local hospital that has served the region for decades.
In what the Rev. Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who served as main celebrant for a Mass on Monday referred to as a “spiritual sister ship,” the transitional partnership between Saint Anthony’s Health Center and OSF Healthcare System, also including OSF Saint Clare’s Hospital, has become official.
“The merging we celebrate today is a rather striking example of the spirit of St. Francis, alive and well in the shared religious witness of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George and the Sisters of the Third Order (of St. Francis),” Jenky said. “Both health care systems and both religious families are already grounded in the same treasured charism of Franciscan love and Franciscan service.”
A merger with roots dating back nearly a decade, the all-new OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center was recognized Monday with a Mass, followed by speeches by leadership from both entities and a luncheon to introduce the new partnership to the community.
Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis Mother M. Maximilia Um, FSGM (outgoing Chair of Saint Anthony’s Health System), Major Superior of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis Sister Judith Ann Duvall, O.S.F., OSF Healthcare System CEO Kevin Schoeplein (who has been with OSF since 1978), Chief of Medical Staff Dr. James Piephoff, and past Saint Anthony’s Board member Terry Dooling addressed the crowd, speaking on the new era for Saint Anthony’s.
“By the grace of God, Catholic health care will not only endure, it will flourish,” Sister Duvall said. “God has entrusted to both of our communities a very, very sacred ministry.”
Schoeplein says he was impressed with the sense of community and commitment to the needy he found in the sisters in Alton.
“Together, we have an opportunity to get health care right,” he said. “This will require a transformative agenda, teamwork, embracing new processes, and using new technologies.
“We are extremely pleased that we can be a partner with an organization that shares our mission and commitment.”
Dooley emphasized the importance of Saint Anthony’s and its history in the area, including the fact it has been a job leader in the community.
Ajay Pathak, President of OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center and OSF Saint Clare’s Hospital, also spoke on the merger. Pathak served as the Chief Integration Officer for OSF Healthcare prior to the affiliation and has worked for OSF since 2009.
“Today is about taking a minute to pause and reflect on all of the hard work that got us to where we are today,” he said.
Former CEO of Saint Anthony’s Healthcare Systems, Sister M. Mikela, FSGM, will be transferring to a new role in the OSF Healthcare Ministry Services Administration in Peoria, Ill.
“This is a very exciting time for us,” Sister Mikela previously told AdVantage News.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) also voiced support for the affiliation during a business luncheon earlier this year.
“I spoke with an older gentleman who talked about his experience at OSF and he said he could not have been treated better,” Davis said. “I am sure that same type of positive outcome will come here (to Saint Anthony’s).”
OSF’s sponsor, the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, officially formed in 1876 and today is based out of Peoria. The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George has sponsored Saint Anthony’s since 1925. Talks between the two organizations led to an announcement of a letter of intent this past spring. An integration team spent several months ensuring the merger would be as seamless as possible and not interrupt ongoing health care.
Research plays a large part in the focus of OSF Healthcare. Both Schoeplein and Pathak have emphasized their dedication to innovative technology as well as a “population health strategy,” a focus on the overall health of the community rather than simply treating patients who come through the door.
Changes have already begun, including additions to the oncology department and a new pulmonologist. Saint Anthony’s Foundation Business and Professional Chair Monica Bristow says a new business health award, related to the health of local companies and their employees, will begin after the first of the year.
A New York Yankees fan, Pathak quoted George Steinbrenner, noting the sentiment fits well within the context of the affiliation between the two health care systems.
“He said, ‘You don’t go out to win a World Series, an entire season, or even a game. You have to focus on winning each inning, each at bat, each pitch,’” Pathak said. “It’s that level and attention to detail that has gotten us to where we are today.”