2 Hospitals in Valley Set to Join Chain


Two prominent San Fernando Valley hospitals--Northridge Hospital Medical Center and Glendale Memorial Hospital--are expected to merge within the next few weeks with Catholic Healthcare West of San Francisco, making the 40-hospital chain one of the largest nonprofit systems in the state, hospital administrators said Tuesday.

Catholic Healthcare said that it plans to buy Burbank-based Unihealth's network of eight Southern California hospitals, including Northridge and Glendale Memorial. The final date of the takeover is still under negotiation but is expected around the end of the month, said Jim Yoshika, president of the hospital division for Unihealth.

The merger will give the hospitals the advantages of joining with a larger nonprofit organization in negotiating for business with managed-care companies, Yoshika said.

No closures or dismissals of employees are expected, Yoshika said.

"We did this merger to strengthen the assets in the community," Yoshika added. "We don't contemplate any of them closing. There will be no effect at all on jobs at the hospitals."

Included in the group are both campuses of Northridge Hospital, with 435 beds at the Roscoe Boulevard facility and 211 beds at the Sherman Way facility in Van Nuys--which was Valley Hospital until 1995--and the 346-bed Glendale Memorial facility. Other Unihealth hospitals include California Hospital in Los Angeles, La Palma and Martin Luther hospitals in Orange County, Long Beach Community Hospital and the San Gabriel Valley Medical Center.

All will become part of Catholic Healthcare West, increasing its size to 48 hospitals, mostly in California.

"We want to make sure all of these hospitals have a fighting chance in the marketplace," Yoshika said, adding that hospitals statewide have been losing money and operating with half their beds empty, largely as a result of managed care programs authorizing fewer hospital stays.

While feminist groups have criticized Catholic Healthcare West for limiting family planning services at some hospitals, Yoshika said hospitals in the Unihealth merger "are going to remain non-Catholic hospitals" in most reproductive issues.

He said Catholic Healthcare has policies that prohibit assisted suicide, in-vitro fertilization, and abortion except in situations that are life-threatening to the mother.

Other "family planning services in those hospitals will continue," Yoshika said.

However, the Valley chapter of the National Organization for Women plans to stage a candlelight vigil at Northridge Hospital on Monday to protest the takeover.

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