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Legal ruling allows Hoag to regain local control from Providence health care system

Hoag affiliated in 2012 with what is now Providence St. Joseph Health.
Hoag, with hospitals in Newport Beach and Irvine and several clinics around Orange County, affiliated in 2012 with what is now Providence St. Joseph Health.
(File Photo)

Hoag Memorial Hospital will soon reclaim local control and expand its reproductive health services as it ends a rocky partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health that lasted nearly a decade.

Under a stipulation signed Jan. 10 by Orange County Superior Court Judge David A. Hoffer, Hoag and Providence will officially end their affiliation by Jan. 31.

As part of the agreement, Hoag will reinstate and expand services to include a “full range” of women’s healthcare, including the creation of a new program with family planning and contraception and high-risk pregnancy management.

Hoag also plans to provide specialty care for LGBTQ+ patients and recruit nationally recognized expert clinicians to form Hoag Women’s Medical Group.

Hoag originally joined forces with the Orange County-based St. Joseph Health System in 2012 to form a regional healthcare delivery system and created the Covenant Health Network, with a seven-member board, to integrate the two nonprofit partners. At the time, St. Joseph had 14 hospitals, five in Southern California.

In 2016, St. Joseph merged with Providence. The Catholic Providence St. Joseph Health has 52 hospitals in six states.

About eight years into its partnership, Hoag took legal action against Providence, alleging a lack of progress in its mission and noting diverging visions, including a move away from a community-based approach to one that was national.

“As time has progressed, moreover, there have been increasing efforts by Providence to homogenize the system and to move focus away from a community-based governance/engagement model, eliminating Orange County as a region and concentrating much of the decision-making in national corporate management,” according to the complaint. “These efforts stand in direct contradiction to [the affiliation and] Hoag’s mission.”

Wexler told the Daily Pilot in 2020 that Providence was disappointed by the “misguided and potentially costly legal actions by the Hoag leaders.”

This week Hoag and Providence issued a joint press release, announcing their “amicable” agreement and continued commitment to improving the well-being of residents.

“Although we are formally parting ways, we will have other opportunities to work together on behalf of the community,” Providence President of Operations Erik Wexler said in a statement. “We look forward to future collaborations with our colleagues at Hoag, whom we continue to hold in high regard.”

Robert T. Braithwaite, chief executive and president of Hoag, stated his organization appreciated the relationship built with Providence’s teams over the past several years and look forward to “new avenues of collaboration in the future, as each institution brings its unique strengths to bear in service of patient health.”

No further details of the confidential agreement were made public.

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta on Monday gave his approval to Hoag’s split from Providence, noting it is a win for expanded access to reproductive healthcare access in Orange County. Hoag, established by the Assn. of Presbyterian Members and the Hoag Family Foundation, alleged in legal documents that its affiliation with a Catholic system partially infringed on its autonomy to perform women’s services.

“In a time when reproductive rights are under attack, we have to take every reasonable step we can to protect and expand reproductive healthcare in California,” Bonta said in a statement. “The separation of Hoag from Providence will allow two strong health systems to continue to operate, while allowing Hoag to expand access to essential reproductive care in the area.”

Bonta was not a party to the lawsuit, but any objection on his behalf could have jeopardized finalizing the settlement.

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