Remarks from the Leadership Luncheon

Remarks from Sr. Carol Keehan, DC
President and Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Health Association of the United States
Delivered at the Leadership Luncheon
During the 91st Catholic Health Assembly

Sr. Carol Keehan, DCFirst of all let me say thank you to all of you for the warm welcome and support you have given me as I assumed this new role.

Before we look toward the future, let me provide a brief overview of the association based on the last year.

In regard to stewardship, for fiscal year 2006 ending at the end of June, we are completing the activities of the association while staying within the approved budget.

Administratively we implemented a broad range of management policies that resulted in reduced costs.

In terms of management infrastructure we simplified the association's internal management groups, which has resulted in reduced meeting and facilitation costs.

And in cooperation with several ministry partners, our Finance Committee and Board completed a comprehensive review of CHA's socially-responsible investment strategies and guidelines.

These changes allowed the staff and the Finance Committee to recommend to the Board and the membership that we reduce our fiscal year 2007 dues burden on members.

The dues resolution you approved reduces by 10% the 2007 dues.

As for some of our program initiatives, in leadership formation we produced and distributed a CD-based teaching module on Catholic social tradition.

In addition, just a few weeks ago 36 leaders, representing 10 member systems, participated in our Rome ecclesiology experience that participants describe as an opportunity to understand better their role in the healing ministry and to gain a much clearer perspective of the universality of the Church.

CHA staff worked with sponsors of various kinds of Catholic ministries to identify core elements of sponsorship.

Then with the assistance of a task force of sponsors they took this information and developed a Resource Guide for Sponsors on the Core Elements of Sponsorship.

On the very pressing issue of nutrition and hydration, CHA continues to stay involved.

To help advance the discussion, we convened a dialogue with bishops, theologians, ethicists, physicians, and others on this topic to help the church leadership understand and clarify the issues.

To help those at the bedside in their great work, CHA presented two audio conferences.

The first was "After Schiavo: Sorting Through the Issues," during which 362 sites nationwide joined in bringing 5,250 staff members.

The second one was "My Way: Dealing with Challenging Patients" that had 375 sites join and approximately 5,400 staff members participate.

We are so pleased to be able to help so many direct caregivers in our facilities.

In the area of advocacy and public policy, we have been working on your behalf in regard to issues of community benefit and tax exemption.

Of note is our work with the staff of the Senate Finance Committee and the very favorable response we received this spring from Committee Chair Senator Grassley.

We will spend some more time on the topic of community benefit with John Finan and the Community Benefit Task Force who will have an opportunity to address you in a few moments.

Some of the other advocacy issues of note: CHA helped successfully lobby for changes to the Tax Reconciliation bill to remove requirements that the 990T on unrelated business income be certified by an outside auditor and a provision that would have impacted Catholic health systems classified as 509a3 organizations.

Also, CHA helped successfully defeat harsh language proposals that would have required hospitals to notify the INS of undocumented persons served by hospitals and/or health clinics.

Working with other partners and ministry colleagues, CHA continues to advocate for health care expansion, adequate funding for Medicare, S-CHIP, and Medicaid.

Our Covering a Nation initiative continues to work to increase commitment to this CHA priority.

In addition to the active involvement of so many of you in Covering a Nation, this initiative's committee and staff have worked with members to increase participation in the Citizens' Health Care Working Group, and I hope you will find the Covering a Nation kit helpful in your local efforts.

We cannot rest until this national problem of nearly 46 million uninsured is adequately addressed.

And in March, 130 ministry colleagues attended the annual legislative advocacy conference in Washington, DC.

The participants visited more than 100 Senate and House offices to discuss the concerns of the Catholic health ministry.

CHA was also pleased to partner with the Alliance for Health Reform and the Commonwealth Fund to sponsor an educational program for approximately 120 congressional staffers in January.

These are the people who write the position papers and bills. Giving them accurate information is a great help in getting good legislation and developing productive relationships.

And one other initiative of note, there has been a growing number of systems and facilities incorporating the research validated themes and messages developed by members as part of the Public Perception Project.

This plays a part in telling our story in ways that help the public understand who we are and our commitment to individuals and communities.

Now to the future.

At your place there is a copy of the new strategic plan. If for some reason there is not a document at your place, please raise your hand, and a colleague will get you one.

You are the first within the ministry to receive this new document. During the coming weeks and months we will be distributing the new strategic plan far-and-wide throughout the membership.

[You may access the Strategic Plan online.]

Let me begin with our mission statement. CHA exists to support and strengthen the Catholic health ministry in the United States.

New is our vision statement. The board felt that anyone reading our strategic plan should clearly know why we do what we do.

The statement reads: The Catholic health ministry will be a vibrant presence in enhancing the health of communities and access to quality health care for everyone, with special attention to those who are underserved and most vulnerable.

Now I will turn to the strategic focus areas of mission, ethics, and advocacy. As we go through these three areas I want to note that the board has added a notation to each of the strategies so anyone can easily see the association's role as either a leader, a partner, a convener, or a supporter.

Mission is described as ensuring the ministry identity of Catholic health care.

The strategies include the areas of sponsorship, leadership formation, and development of resources for mission and pastoral care leaders.

Also I want to note the inclusion of mission accountability for community benefit and the new addition of the faith imperative to improve quality and safety.

Ethics is responding to ethical issues in light of Catholic identity. The strategies deal with ethical and theological issues, including nutrition and hydration, emergency contraception, etc.

Added is a focus on the theological and ethical perspective to the national dialogue on health care.

Advocacy is described as advocating justice in health care. Key is the focus on advocating for access to health care for everyone through legislative solutions and grassroots engagement.

Also included is implementing a comprehensive strategy to achieve consistency and transparency in community benefit measurement and documentation, ensuring support for safety net programs for vulnerable populations, and advocating on social justice and ethical issues of concern to the Catholic health ministry.

For the balance of our time, we want to discuss in greater detail an issue that is highlighted twice in the new strategic plan; once under mission and again under advocacy. I refer to the issue of community benefit.

This is a topic that really has been a major initiative for the association for the last six months and more.

And I want to thank you for your positive response. In just the last four weeks, nearly 500 ministry leaders — including sponsors, trustees, and executive teams — have viewed the community benefit video and eight systems have sent in commitments to utilize the guidelines as well as many of the individual hospitals.