Dignity Health and the University of California: A Longstanding Partnership Now in Jeopardy


For decades, Dignity Health and the University of California have partnered to deliver high-quality medical care throughout the state. Built upon a shared history of compassionate, skillful care, our partnership has taken on health inequity, making access to quality health care possible for thousands of Californians in underserved communities. The partnership provides a “safety net” that protects the health and well-being of millions of diverse Californians. And today -- in response to the Covid-19 pandemic -- our partnership has enabled the launch of key programs for care delivery and community vaccine distribution. Download a fact sheet about the partnership.

Together:

  • We deliver critically needed care—including cancer care and pediatric trauma care, inpatient migraine treatment and mental health services -- to communities that would otherwise go without.
  • We bring leading-edge medical breakthroughs to patients statewide, changing lives in rural and urban areas alike.
  • We are able to deliver care more quickly to where it is needed the most -- and free up capacity at specialized treatment centers.
  • We place our shared values in service of promoting health equity and justice, believing that access to care should never be determined by one’s race, ethnicity, income or zip code.
  • Dignity Health and UC are the #1 and #2 Medi-Cal providers in the state, respectively, and must be able to partner in order to coordinate lifesaving care for these patients.

Some have suggested that University of California should not partner with Dignity Health because of our Catholic affiliation.

Undoing this partnership would quickly unravel our State’s health safety net – devastating access to necessary care for thousands of Californians.

Partnership-enabled programs often provide the only locally available care of its kind.

Dignity Health UC PartnershipCOVID Care:

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, UCSF and Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, worked quickly to open the city’s first dedicated unit for COVID-19 patients. When a vaccine became available, Dignity Health partnered with UCSF and UC Davis to offer large-scale vaccine events in San Francisco and Sacramento, focused on reaching thousands of vulnerable community members.

Trauma Care:

In Los Angeles, UCLA specialists provide the only locally available pediatric trauma services in the San Fernando Valley at Northridge Hospital. Launched in 2010, this Level II Pediatric Trauma Center provides immediate care to infants, children and adolescents with life-threatening traumatic injuries. In 2019 alone, the program treated 700 patients. UC physicians provide life-saving cardiac trauma care and pediatric trauma care at California Hospital, the only Level ll trauma center in downtown LA. 

Cancer Care:

  • The Mercy UC Davis Cancer Center at Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center Merced provides care for more than 12,000 patients annually. It is the only cancer center in the region.
  • 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.

Today, the Dignity Health-UC partnership is in jeopardy.

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.

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.

We have heard the concerns – and we are working to address them.

Some critics of the partnership have asserted that, as a Catholic provider, Dignity Health seeks to restrict a doctor’s ability to practice evidence-based medicine in our facilities. That is absolutely untrue. We expect and require that all clinicians practicing at our facilities, provide services in accordance with their professional judgment and the needs and wishes of their patients.

  • We also expect every clinician to inform patients of all their health care options; and to refer and/or transfer a patient to another provider if a certain service is not offered.
  • In the decades we have been working together to provide services, we are not aware of any instance in which a patient did not receive the care they needed, or where a UC clinician was constrained in providing care.
  • Nonetheless, over the past year, Dignity Health and UC have worked to amend our contracts to expressly address these issues and formally allay any such concerns.

We are dedicated to serving the LGBTQ Community.

Some have also claimed that, as a Catholic health system, Dignity Health neglects the health needs of the LGBTQ community. We take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to equitable, knowledgeable and welcoming care for LGBTQ patients and their families. They have too often faced discrimination in health care, and Dignity Health is committed to nondiscrimination in the care we offer all Californians:

  • We serve all patients regardless of background, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  • Dignity Health operates one of the only specialty transgender care centers in San Francisco -- the Gender Institute at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital -- and we provide primary and specialty care for gay and transgender patients every day at our hospitals and clinics across the state.
  • We provide PrEP and PEP HIV prevention in our health facilities and physician offices.
  • Ours were among the first hospitals to offer services in response to the AIDS crises in the 1980s when few others did – often in partnership with public health agencies in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and other counties. In San Francisco, St. Mary’s Medical Center has been providing compassionate, groundbreaking outpatient care to HIV patients for decades. A UCSF specialist leads the clinic.

You can help preserve and protect the Dignity Health-UC Partnership – before it’s too late.

Several respected health care organizations, including the California Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, 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 About Dignity Health – and the Dignity Health – UC Partnership

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