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CHRISTUS to expand Latin American presence with partnership in Colombia

January 15, 2016

By KATHLEEN NELSON

CHRISTUS Health of Irving, Texas, has expanded its international presence by investing in a Colombian company. Under the agreement, CHRISTUS will share ownership and management of the health system and medical support services of Coomeva Cooperativa Medica, a for-profit cooperative comprised of 16 companies and based in Cali, Colombia.


The front entrance view of Clínica Farallones' emergency room. CHRISTUS Health's partnership with Coomeva Cooperativa Medica includes the Cali, Colombia, hospital.

Ernie Sadau, CHRISTUS' chief executive, said in an interview with Catholic Health World in mid-December that the sides had completed their due diligence, signed the term letter and expected to "begin the relationship" early this year.

Sadau declined to disclose financial details. "I'd rather say we've made a significant investment in continuing our growth within Latin America and expansion of the mission in the ministry of Jesus Christ," he said.

Coomeva is the third Latin American partner for CHRISTUS, which offers services in 60 cities in the U.S., most of them in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Since 2001, it has operated a joint venture called Grupo CHRISTUS Muguerza, a nine- hospital system in Mexico with a network of outpatient clinics that has grown to be the third-largest health care provider in the country. In 2014, CHRISTUS partnered with Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Red de Salud UC – CHRISTUS, a health system comprised of two hospitals and 11 outpatient clinics in Santiago, Chile.

"Because of our 15-year relationship in Mexico, we have the expertise and have grown the talent in Latin America for health care," Sadau said. "The big goal is to continue to expand Catholic health care in markets with a large Catholic population, but also expanding it in markets that are underserved and are in need of health care."

Though Coomeva is not a Catholic organization, Sadau said, "Their values compared to our values are almost identical. Colombia is 80 percent Catholic. Coomeva's leaders are Catholic. We are aligned from a mission and value standpoint."

The deal gives CHRISTUS a share in four of Coomeva's companies. CHRISTUS will assume an equal ownership stake with Coomeva in Sinergia, a health care provider network that serves members from Coomeva's own health insurance plans, as well as other plans. Also included are two wholly owned hospitals, two partially owned hospitals, the largest home health care company in the country and 150 ambulatory care facilities spread across Colombia. Sadau said CHRISTUS would have equal representation with Coomeva on Sinergia's executive board and would manage its operation.

CHRISTUS also will manage Coomeva Servicios Administrativos, which provides support services for the health system, including human resources, group purchasing, payroll, tax services and information management, Sadau said.

CHRISTUS will become what Sadau termed "a very limited minority partner" in two health insurance companies. The first, Coomeva EPS, contracts with the Colombian government to manage a portion of the nation's universal health system. Of the 24 million Colombians enrolled in universal coverage, Coomeva covers 3.7 million, according to a release from CHRISTUS. The second, Coomeva Medicina Prepagada, is a private health insurance company that sells private health insurance to individuals and employers in Colombia. Sadau said private insurance was for individuals who want to "buy up" and allows them to have access at different facilities. CHRISTUS will not manage the health insurance companies.

Sadau said that CHRISTUS became aware that Coomeva was searching for a partner when CHRISTUS was working on its deal in Chile and that talks had been ongoing for two years. He added that CHRISTUS isn't looking to expand into other Latin American markets at this time.

Sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, CHRISTUS includes more than 60 hospitals and long-term care facilities and 175 clinics and outpatient centers in six states in the U.S., seven in Mexico and one state in Chile.

In addition to its health division, Coomeva has a financial division that includes one of Colombia's largest banks, a non-health insurance division and a wellness/leisure division that includes wellness centers and country clubs.

 

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