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Health services executive examines role of Catholicism in health care

| Friday, December 4, 2015

The Saint Mary’s Department of Justice Education organized a day-long symposium Thursday about different aspects of health care. The keynote speaker for the event, St. Joseph Health System President and CEO Albert Gutierrez, gave a presentation titled “How Catholic faith informs the practice of health care.”

Director of the Justice Education Program Adrienne Lyles introduced the day’s events.

“Today’s Health Care Justice Symposium is designed to foster intellectual curiosity, rational inquiry, respectful dialogue, civic responsibility and the practice of justice and compassion,” Lyles said. “Health care is a commodity that concerns and affects all human beings.”

Gutierrez said Saint Mary’s and Saint Joseph Health System, which is part of Trinity Health, are sister institutions because the Sisters of the Holy Cross founded both of them. He also said the Health System is an extension of the Catholic Church through its relationship with the Sisters.

The biggest issue when it comes to health care in America is difference between equality and equity, Gutierrez said.

“Equality is sameness, giving everyone the same thing,” Gutierrez said. “It only works from our view if everyone started from the same place. … However, we believe in health care that equity is something that we’re looking to strive to achieve.”

Gutierrez showed a graphic that depicted equality versus equity and showed three people of different heights trying to look over a fence. Under equality, they all had the same size box to stand on, and the shorter people could not see. Under equity, the people had a different number of boxes to ensure each person could see over the fence.

“If you follow the theory of equality, you could still have people that are left out,” Gutierrez said. “ … We must first ensure equity before we can enjoy equality.”

Gutierrez said Trinity Health looks at all factors needed to ensure the best health care when it develops business and management plans to improve the hospitals. He said the quality of care is only 10 percent of community health, and in previous decades it was the only factor hospitals prioritized.

“Having a bright, shiny hospital does not improve the overall health status of individuals in a community,” Gutierrez said. “If you only believe that we’re going to save you in the hospital and then we’re going to send you back on the street, that is a very, very limited view of … health care.

“We are now in our strategic plan operating under the model that health does not begin in a doctor’s office. We have chosen, as a health system, to inject ourselves in the entire argument.”

Gutierrez said he cares for patients because people are made in the image of God. He said because all people have dignity, they all deserve reverence, and he creates plans to ensure the hospital follows through on that.

“All of this goes back to biblical concept,” he said. “Whether you have earned it or not, we will care for you.”

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

Contact Nicole