Providence and it’s Neighbors: What Has Changed?

One of the most common questions neighbors have asked me over the last 6 months has been, “What has changed at Providence. Why does it feel like Providence cares less and less about the good of the community?”

That got me to thinking about when things began to change and when Providence adopted a new tone and a new way of relating to the neighborhood in which they live.

To be fair, there has been conflict between Providence and the neighbors for decades. For decades, neighbors have stood up and gone on record as opposed to development of Providence especially when that development has left the neighborhood with less than community-oriented spaces. The bottom line is this: the same organizations that carry a mission of aiding the sick and suffering also cause conflict within the neighborhoods where they do business.

However, despite those obvious conflicts, the best hospitals find ways to embrace what the neighbors need and to incorporate neighbor concerns into their development goals. We’ve highlighted Seattle Children’s as a case in point. They used to have conflict with their neighbors, much like Providence has with its neighbors because they didn’t take the residential nature of their surroundings to heart. They were expanding and traffic was causing problems and parking was a problem and tensions were high. They got smart and changed their tune, they reduced the number of commuters, and they now build pedestrian infrastructures all around their campus as a way to give back to the neighbors in exchange for the inconvenience of having a hospital in their midst.

It’s unlikely Seattle Children’s made this change in direction without some external pressure. But, it seems they’ve embraced the change whole-heartedly, in fact it’s now a marketing coup for them. At a time when all large corporations are pressured to reduce vehicular trips, Seattle Children’s can relax a bit, they are under 38% single occupancy rate. That’s an incredible feat and they should brag about it. We wish our neighborhood hospital was able to brag about such an amazing accomplishment.

But I digress.

What has changed at Providence? 

For one thing, in 2009, the Vatican turned the power and control of the hospitals in Oregon away from the Sisters of Providence Ministry and into the hands of the Providence Ministries, which is legally a Public Juridic Person. This from the 2011 annual statement of Providence Corporation:

The Provincial Superior, Provincial Council, and Provincial Treasurer of the Sisters of Providence – Mother Joseph Province historically controlled certain aspects of the various corporations comprising Providence Health & Services (the Health System), through certain reserved rights. Effective January 1, 2010, essentially all of the sponsorship of the Health System was transferred to the new Public Juridic Person, Providence Ministries, which was approved by the Vatican on February 2, 2009. The reserved rights, held by the Provincial Superior, Provincial Council, and Provincial Treasurer of the Sisters of Providence Mother Joseph Province, were transferred through the change in sponsorship to Providence Ministries.

Sister Bernardo and Mary Jane Groce, circa 1942

It seems Catholic hospitals have been less nimble in the competitive hospital world. As secular hospitals have entered into joint ventures with them, views on controversial issues have ended key negotiations. You can read an excellent description of what that means here . . . 

The biggest change at Providence? The nuns are gone and there’s a new order in charge.

We can tell.

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One Response to Providence and it’s Neighbors: What Has Changed?

  1. Gertrude says:

    Thank you for spelling this change out so clearly. I doubt that even employees realize that this change has occurred. It would have happened just about the time the hospital changed its name and logo from “Sisters of Providence” to “Providence Health System”. It is my understanding that Providence Health System recently merged with Swedish Hospital in Seattle, named in your article explaining the religious detachment they have undergone.
    I would be interested in knowing who exactly sits on the Providence Ministries. It is my understanding that the Provincial Council (Providence Ministries?), made the decision to remove the last two sisters from their living quarters at the hospital and send them to a retirement home in Seattle. This was so disheartening to me and many others, as the choice was made against the sister’s wishes, but they went along with the decision in hopes that they could get used to a new and possibly better life.

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