Dignity Health and the University of California: A Legacy of Caring for Californians
Dignity Health and the University of California have partnered for decades to deliver high-quality medical services throughout the state. With a shared history of compassionate, skillful care, Dignity Health and UC provide a “safety net” that protects the health and wellbeing of millions of diverse Californians.
- Together, we deliver critically needed care—including cancer and trauma treatment, newborn intensive care, and mental health services--to communities where this care would otherwise be unavailable.
- Together, we bring leading-edge medical breakthroughs to patients statewide, changing lives in rural and urban areas alike.
- Together, we are able to deliver care more quickly to where it’s needed the most and free up capacity at specialized treatment centers.
Dignity Health and UC share a powerful commitment to quality healthcare for all Californians. These are just a few of the unique, highly respected programs that our partnership makes possible statewide:
COVID-19 Care in San Francisco
Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and UCSF Health worked together to open the City’s first dedicated unit to care for COVID-19 patients. The unit was staffed by physicians from both Dignity Health and UCSF Health and cared for up to 48 patients at a time.
Services for Children Suffering Traumatic Injuries
Children facing traumatic injuries receive critically needed services thanks to a partnership between UCLA Health and Dignity’s Northridge Hospital. Launched because the local community demanded more pediatric trauma care, the program is the only one of its kind in the San Fernando Valley.
This program treated more than 700 patients in FY19.
Mental Health Treatment for Adolescents
St. Mary’s Medical Center offers the only inpatient adolescent psychiatry program in San Francisco, which saw more than 1,000 patients in FY19. This partnership with UCSF offers a wide variety of skilled caregivers, and provides important training opportunities to current and future physicians.
Cancer Treatment & Clinical Trial Access
The joint UC Davis-Mercy Merced Cancer Center serves more than 13,000 patients from across the region every year, providing high-quality radiation oncology services and other critical specialized care from UC experts. And St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton partners with UCSF to give patients access to cancer clinical trials that would otherwise be out of reach.
St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco has been providing compassionate, groundbreaking outpatient care to HIV patients since the AIDS epidemic devastated the city in the early 1980s. Thanks to our partnership with UC, a UCSF specialist leads the clinic.
The Future of These Programs if the Partnerships Are Forced to Close
There is no question that partnerships like these expand access to health care for more Californians. But some are suggesting that the University of California should not partner with faith-based nonprofit organizations like Dignity Health to offer this care.
Ending these partnerships will eliminate access to urgently needed health services for thousands of patients.
At the core of the concern is whether UC physicians are impacted by Dignity Health’s Catholic affiliation when they are practicing in Dignity Health hospitals. Catholic hospitals like Dignity Health’s agree to uphold Catholic values, such as serving the poor. Catholic hospitals also agree not to perform certain services such as elective abortions, elective sterilization, or in-vitro fertilization. These services are not typically performed in hospitals regardless of religious affiliation.
Dignity Health expects all clinicians practicing in its facilities to provide services in accordance with their clinical judgement and the needs and wishes of their patients. Dignity Health also expects all clinicians to inform patients of all of their health care options and transfer a patient to another provider if a certain service is not offered. In recent months, Dignity Health and the University of California have worked to update their contractual arrangements so these expectations are even clearer.
Several respected health care organizations, including the California Medical Association and California Hospital Association, have expressed public support for these partnerships. You can voice your support to continue these vital health programs by submitting comments directly to the UC Regents.
Frequently Asked Questions
Helping people stay healthy requires access to an array of specialized health and social services. No single health system can do this alone—partnerships are the only way to provide access to the full range of needed services in our communities. In fact, partnerships like those between faith-based health providers and public health agencies and academic institutions are extremely common all across the country.
There are many reasons it’s important for Dignity Health and the UC system to work together, including:
- Patients in rural areas can access care from UC experts through Dignity Health care centers, resulting in specialty services like pediatric trauma, stroke care, and mental health care that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
- Partnerships like these are especially important for low income patients, with Dignity Health and UC serving as the #1 and #2 providers of Medi-Cal services. Not being able to partner and coordinate care for these patients would have a tremendous negative impact on care for those patients.
- Through Dignity Health hospitals, thousands of medical students and residents statewide have access to comprehensive clinical training.
In many cases, Dignity Health offers unique services that UC Health currently does not provide, including acute rehabilitation, acute adolescent psychiatry, and burn care. Additionally, many UC Health facilities are nearing capacity. In critical situations, UC has transferred patients to Dignity Health hospitals with the confidence they will receive high-quality, evidence-based care.
For decades, Dignity Health and UC Health have worked together to provide specialty medical care, physician training opportunities, and vital health programs. Tens of thousands of patients across the state benefit from these collaborations. Examples include:
- UCSF Health and Saint Francis Memorial Hospital partnered to open San Francisco’s first dedicated unit to care for COVID-19 patients.
- UCLA specialists provide pediatric trauma services at Northridge Hospital—the only program of its kind in the San Fernando Valley.
- San Francisco’s only inpatient headache unit is a UCSF program at St. Mary’s Medical Center.
- The Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center in Merced is a joint venture with UC Davis.
- Cancer patients at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton can access clinical trials thanks to a partnership with UCSF.
- At California Hospital in Los Angeles, up to 1,000 ER patients a year receive critical cardiac care thanks to a partnership with UCLA.
- Behavioral Health services are available at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Sacramento because of a partnership with UC Davis.
- Pediatric telemedicine consultations with UCLA specialists are available to patients in the San Fernando Valley through Northridge Hospital.
- The only radiation oncology treatment center in the San Fernando Valley is a partnership between UCLA and Northridge Hospital.
- A partnership with UCSF helped launch a post-acute behavioral health rehabilitation unit at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco that keeps 56 patients off the streets.
- UCSF residents receive specialized training in pediatric burn care through Northern California’s largest burn unit, located at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital.
- Resource and referral services in Sacramento emergency rooms help patients access health care and insurance coverage thanks to a partnership with UC Davis.
- At St. Mary’s Medical Center, UCSF patients can access San Francisco’s only inpatient adolescent psychiatry unit.
- A UCLA partnership allows for biochemical, molecular, and cell biology tests that guide diagnostic and treatment choices in the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach.
- Education programs for thousands of UC medical students and residents at Dignity Health hospitals throughout California.
Dignity Health proudly serves all patients regardless of their background, sexual orientation or gender identity, and we have a strong legacy of providing care that meets the unique health needs of LGBTQ patients. That includes providing HIV care in the 1980s at specialty clinics in Los Angeles and San Francisco before most other providers were doing so; operating one of the only specialty trans care centers in San Francisco, the Gender Institute at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital; and providing primary and specialty care for gay and trans patients every day at our hospitals and clinics across the state.
Like many other health systems across the country, Dignity Health’s history is rooted in the Catholic faith. In 1854, eight Sisters arrived in San Francisco, California and immediately began caring for residents of a city struck by cholera, then typhoid and influenza. They founded St. Mary's Hospital, now the oldest continuously operating hospital in the city. That commitment to caring for all people, especially those who are poor and vulnerable, continues today.
Catholic hospitals are more likely to offer care such as maternal care, mental health, and trauma care than secular hospitals. Catholic hospitals also typically provide more care for at-risk and low-income patients. In fact, Dignity Health cares for more Medi-Cal patients than any other hospital system in California.
Catholic hospitals agree to uphold Catholic values. This includes not providing a small number of services at their facilities, including elective (non-emergent) abortion, elective (non-emergent) procedures that result in sterilization such as hysterectomies or vasectomies, in-vitro fertilization, and physician-assisted suicide. These services are not typically performed in hospitals regardless of religious affiliation.
If a pregnancy threatens a mother’s life, emergency care will always be provided to any patient, even if it results in the termination of a pregnancy. This decision is made by the patient’s doctor.
Dignity Health expects all clinicians practicing at its facilities to provide services in accordance with their professional judgement and the needs and wishes of their patients. Dignity Health also expects all clinicians to inform patients of all of their health care options and transfer a patient to another provider if a certain service is not offered.