CHW change to Dignity Health won't have major effect on Central Coast

The announcement Monday by Catholic Healthcare West that it is changing its name to Dignity Health and cutting its affiliation with the Catholic Church will not result in any major changes for the three local hospitals it governs: French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria.

In addition to the name change, the nonprofit hospital system, one of the nation’s largest, is moving to a nondenominational board of directors.

Shedding the church affiliation and its associated religious restrictions is expected to make it easier for hospitals to merge or form alliances with other health care providers.

Ken Dalebout, chief strategy officer for Dignity Health, said that each hospital’s mission, vision and practices will continue.

Of the three local hospitals, only Marian is a Catholic hospital, meaning it is governed by “ethical and religious directives.”

Under those directives, the hospital does not provide procedures such as abortions, sterilization or in vitro fertilization, Dalebout said. That will not change with the new name and the nonprofit’s break from the church, he said.

The rollout of the new name began Monday with internal changes such as email addresses and employee badges. The hospitals’ signs will be changed in the coming months.

“This is really a very positive change,” Dalebout said. “In the future it will help us to partner with more organizations. It does not mean any structural changes locally.”