St. Luke, a 167-bed hospital founded 52 years ago by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, has long enjoyed a reputation for offering more personalized patient care than its larger counterparts, earning it a special niche in the western San Gabriel Valley.
More recently it had also developed a reputation as an antiquated and inefficient facility badly in need of renovations, according to the Catholic order.
In a move that surprised the health-care community and Catholics, St. Joseph Health System, which ran the Pasadena hospital for the order, announced Oct. 1 that the hospital would be sold, and that it was negotiating exclusively with Summit Health Ltd., a for-profit company. Diane Moeller, vice president and director of member services for the Catholic Health Assn. of the United States, said at the time that no Catholic hospital has been sold to a profit-making firm in the past five years.
Negotiations continued until Dec. 20, when the order signed a contract under which it sold the hospital to Summit for $13.5 million. Summit is expected to assume formal ownership sometime this week.
Summit officials say they hope to preserve the hospital's longtime reputation and at the same time correct the ravages of age. The kindly old lady will get a much needed face and body lift, officials say, but they have declined to spell out many specifics pending Summit's takeover.
For the past month, Summit's activities at the hospital have primarily involved a series of meetings designed to reassure the 420 physicians, 630 employees and 170 volunteers that the spirit of St. Luke will not change, Summit officials said.
"We will keep the operation basically the same as it is," said Michael Murray, regional vice president for Summit. Murray and Harry Adams, the new executive director of the hospital, are working together on the transition.
"We don't expect a spate of resignations," Murray said. "There is always a fear of changes but it hasn't happened in other hospitals we have acquired. We hope the employees will give us the opportunity to prove we can provide effective leadership."
Although Summit officials declined to elaborate on specifics because a financial and equipment assessment of the hospital and its organizational structure is still under way, they have announced a variety of short- and long-range plans for the
The name of the facility, which sits on 13 acres of land on East Washington Boulevard near Altadena Drive, has already been changed from St. Luke Hospital of Pasadena to St. Luke Medical Center. The new name, Murray said, will better reflect the broad range of services offered by St. Luke.
"We have no plans to incorporate Summit into the name," Murray said.
As soon as Summit takes over, officials say, it plans to begin honoring its promise in the purchase contract to spend at least $4 million on capital improvements.
Additional Building Planned
The major physical change will involve construction of an additional building connected to the existing facility. The new building, which is expected to be completed in two years, will include new operating rooms and a maternity department.
The hospital had discontinued its maternity department 10 years ago, when birth rates declined. And when the new department opens, the hospital will offer abortions for the first time.
Although no statistical breakdown is available, a spokesman for the hospital said that many of the St. Luke doctors are not Catholic and most are also affiliated with others area hospitals that already offer abortions.
"Abortions will be up to the physicians," Murray said. "We won't restrict it but we don't promote it."
Other Changes Scheduled
Before the new building is completed, other changes in the physical plant will take place.
"We think we can capitalize on St. Luke being so old," Adams said, "because in Pasadena some of the oldest buildings are the nicest. But we will change the landscaping, paint the building and do a lot of aesthetic things.
"Everything, from the minute a patient enters the building, will reflect the quality of care. But we don't have to create the personalized care because it is here. That is the strength of this facility," he said.
Murray formerly was executive director of Whittier Hospital Medical Center, which Summit acquired in 1981. He will work with Adams, who was executive director of Doctors Hospital of Santa Ana, another Summit-owned facility.
Adams replaces James Quackenbush, one of two top St. Luke executives who resigned after the sale was announced.
Quackenbush, 48, who was named the first lay administrator of the hospital 15 years ago, said last week that he had not decided whether he would stay in hospital work. Quackenbush said he had been retained by the hospital to help during the transition.
"I will introduce the Summit people to leaders in the community so there is not a huge void in the transition," he said.