Christus Health

In CHRISTUS there is no east or west, but plenty of care nonetheless. The not-for-profit Catholic health care system operates about 350 medical facilities from its more than 40 hospitals, including general hospitals and long-term acute care facilities, to clinics and outpatient centers. It operates mostly in Louisiana and Texas, but also has facilities in Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, and New Mexico, and in five states in Mexico. In addition to its acute care facilities, CHRISTUS Health runs medical groups, home health and hospice agencies, and senior living facilities. Specialized services include oncology, pediatrics, rehabilitation, and women's and children's health care.

Over the past several years CHRISTUS Health has engaged in cutting some of its operations and reining in costs to generate positive growth. In fiscal 2011 the health care system made modest gains, ending the year with a more than 2% operating margin (compared to 1.6% the previous year) with its net operating income coming in at just under $1 billion, up more than 40% from fiscal 2010.

CHRISTUS Health formed its CHRISTUS Continuing Care division in 2009 to advance the organization's plan to increase its non-acute care operations and house all of its non-acute care services. These services include home care, hospice, long-term care services, residential senior services, and its long-term acute care hospitals (many of which operate under the Dubuis brand name).

Another goal of CHRISTUS Health is to reduce overcrowding and such misuses as patients being seen for routine illnesses in its emergency rooms. To that end, and to make primary care a bit more accessible, the company has opened immediate care clinics in a number of Texas Wal-Mart stores. CHRISTUS Health has plans to expand the clinics into Wal-Marts in Louisiana.

Like many hospital companies the organization has struggled financially as a result of providing care (usually in the emergency room) for the indigent and for the growing ranks of uninsured, especially in the hard-hit economic environment of 2008 and 2009. During that period, the health care system's charity care (defined as unpaid services provided to the uninsured and indigent) was up nearly 35%.

As a result, CHRISTUS Health has had to sell some money-losing facilities, such as the St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, which it sold to Hospital Partners of America (HPA), a company that allows doctors to take an ownership stake in its hospitals. 

It also sold the CHRISTUS Medical Group-Southwest Community Health Center in Houston to Legacy Community Health Services in 2010 because Legacy is designated as a federally qualified health center (FQHC) and can operate the clinic as such (meaning it is eligible for more public-sector funding). FQHCs are not-for-profit or public entity, community-owned health care providers serving low-income and medically underserved communities.

CHRISTUS Health has taken other steps to try to offset some costs of indigent care, including pushing for the establishment of hospital districts to pay for charity care costs in some of its markets.

The organization has been focused on growing its operations in Mexico where it operates about a dozen hospitals and clinics in six states. CHRISTUS Health's Mexico operations are a majority-owned partnership with Monterrey-based Muguerza. The organization's main Monterrey facility became the first Mexican hospital to win accreditation from the Joint Commission International, a unit of the organization that certifies US hospitals.

Because Mexican citizens overwhelmingly rely on public hospitals run by the national health care system, CHRISTUS Muguerza markets itself as a "medical tourism" destination, where Americans can go for cheaper and lower-hassle medical care. Services include acute and primary care, dental care, urgent care, and post-surgical rehabilitation.

CHRISTUS Health was formed through the 1999 merger of Incarnate Word Health System and Sisters of Charity Health System. Both systems have their roots in the religious order Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, founded when three French nuns arrived in Texas in 1866 to care for the poor and sick.