Bon Secours Health System, Inc.
Bon Secours Health System, Inc.
1505 Marriottsville Road
Marriottsville, Maryland 21104
Fax: (410) 442-1082
Web site: http://www.bshsi.com
Founded: 1824 as Sisters of Bon Secours of Paris
Incorporated: 1979 as Sisters of Bon Secours Health
Operating Revenue: $1.1 billion (1997)
SICs: 5912 Drug Stores & Proprietary Stores; 6512 Operators of Nonresidential Buildings; 6513 Operators of Apartment Buildings; 6732 Educational, Religious & Charitable Trusts; 7352 Medical Equipment Rental & Leasing; 8011 General & Specialized Physician Practices; 8021 Total Dental Practice Revenues; 8049 Offices & Clinics of Health Practitioners, Nothing Else; 8051 Skilled Nursing Facilities; 8059 Nursing & Personal Care Facilities; 8062 General Medical & Surgical Hospitals; 8063 Psychiatric Hospitals; 8071 Reference Laboratory Outside of Acute Care; 8082 Home Health Care Services; 8092 Kidney Dialysis Centers; 8093 Specialty Outpatient Facilities, Not Elsewhere Classified; 8099 Health & Allied Services, Not Elsewhere Classified; 8741 Management Services
Bon Secours Health System, Inc. (BSHSI), headquartered in Marriottsville, Maryland, was founded in 1983 to fulfill the healthcare mission of the Sisters of Bon Secours USA. Without regard for race, creed or color, BSHSI strives to alleviate all types of human suffering, especially that of the poor, the sick, and the dying. In the United States, BSHSI’s activities radiate in, and from, a wide variety of healthcare facilities that include 14 acute-care hospitals, one psychiatric hospital, five assisted living facilities, seven long-term care facilities, and numerous ambulatory and community health services. BSHSI is committed to pastoral and home healthcare as well as a wide variety of other professional services, such as nursing, rehabilitation of children and of adults, mobile primary care of the poor, and many other outreach programs. Bon Secours is an active member of the New Covenant Steering Committee, the Catholic Health Association, the American Hospital Association, and Premier Inc. BSHSI President/CEO Christopher M. Carney is a board member of Consolidated Catholic HealthCare Association and Bon Secours Sister Patricia A. Eck—Chairperson of the BSHSI Board—is also secretary/treasurer of Partners for Catholic Health Ministry Leadership. Bon Secours facilities are located in Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. According to Modern Healthcare’s May 1997 listing of healthcare systems ranked by net patient revenue, BSHSI ranks 20th among Catholic not-for-profit healthcare systems and 50th among the top 192 national healthcare systems.
Historical Background: 17th to 19th Centuries
According to M. Adelaide Nutting and Lavinia L. Dock’s History of Nursing, during the latter part of the 17th century and until the middle of the 19th century, nursing was undergoing a “Dark Period.” Hospitals were overcrowded, disease-ridden and unsanitary: “The hospitals of cities were like prisons, with bare, undecorated walls and little dark rooms, small windows where no sun could enter, and dismal wards where 50 or 100 patients were crowded together, deprived of all comforts and even of necessities. The rich did not want to put up with the frightful, deplorable conditions in hospitals and the poor sought hospitals only as a last resort. It was during this dire period in the wake of the French Revolution, specifically in 1824, that the Sisters of Bon Secours were founded in Paris. They committed themselves to nursing and, when necessary, to living in the homes of the sick—rich and poor alike. Thus began the world’s first-recorded formal home-healthcare service. In 1827 the French government recognized the Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours of Paris as the first sisterhood established in France exclusively for nursing the sick.
The Sisters went wherever their services were needed. For example, they tended the sick in their homes and very often lived with the family; they cared for the wounded on the 1870 battlefields of the Franco-Prussian War and, during the cholera epidemic that followed, housed the sick in their convents and even in their motherhouse. Healthcare of this nature was considered a radical innovation: traditionally, women religious were expected to be in their convents at least by nightfall. Other women joined the Sisters, expanded their compassionate nursing throughout France and soon reached out to the sick in Ireland (1861), Great Britain (1871), the United States (1881), and Scotland (1948).
Early Years in the United States: 1881-1983
The first Americans to come into contact with these nursing sisters—as recorded by Bon Secours Sister Mary Cecilia O’Sullivan in A Century of Caring —were Mr. and Mrs. Whedbe during their honeymoon in Paris. When Mrs. Whedbe became seriously ill, her husband asked the doctor for an English-speaking nurse. Irish-born Sister Matilda, C.B.S. was sent to nurse Mrs. Whedbe in her hotel room—and restored her to health. Upon their return to America the Whedbes told a family friend, Bishop Gibbons (later elevated to Archbishop of Baltimore), and several doctors about the Bon Secours care and kindness they had experienced in Paris. They urged Archbishop Gibbons to obtain Bon Secours Sisters for his archdiocese. On his way to Rome in 1880, the Archbishop visited the Bon Secours Sisters in Paris and requested a foundation of the Congregation in Baltimore.
Three Sisters of Bon Secours arrived in Baltimore in 1881. As was the case in many other large cities where numerous immigrants lived together in very unsanitary conditions, Baltimore was disease-ridden: typhoid fever, diphtheria, and scarlet fever ran rampant. Mindful of their commitment to a ministry of “zeal and charity for the relief of the body and especially for the salvation of souls,” the Sister became a familiar sight in the streets of Baltimore as they went about bringing “good help” (the English translation of Bon Secours) wherever it was needed. According to A Century of Caring, ‘ The Sisters of Bon Secours were the first society of visiting nurses in the United States. They preceded by 15 years visiting nursing in Baltimore and by six years visiting nurses in Philadelphia and Boston. They antedated all forms of public-health nursing as well as organized private-duty nursing in the homes of patients.”
In answer to increasing demands for Bon Secours care, more Sisters came from France and Ireland. A convent was opened in Washington, D.C., in 1905 and still another in Detroit in 1909. Sensitive to the needs of Baltimore’s working mothers, whose only choice when working away from home was to place their children in orphanages, in 1907 the Sisters founded the first day-care facility to be opened in Baltimore: St. Martin’s Day Nursery, which functioned according to its original purpose until 1958.
The Sisters nursed the sick in their own homes, without distinction of creed or class. In the early 1900s Baltimore citizens and physicians had asked the Sisters to extend their personalized nursing care to institutionalized settings. The Sisters were well aware of the need to nurse the sick outside the home setting; they had cared for them in the guest rooms of their convent! In 1919 generous donors brought about the opening of Bon Secours Hospital where, according to Sr. Mary Cecilia’s history of the Congregation of Bon Secours, people came from far and near to “get not only the best medical and surgical attention, splendid care, and the ever present unselfish, and watchful nursing from the Sisters but, in addition, the feeling that one was in a true hospital, not an institution.”
The Sisters cared for hundreds of poor patients, especially during the economic depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929. According to archived annual reports, in 1932 the Sisters—without financial help from city or state—gave hospital care to 420 nonpaying patients and distributed 98,945 lunches to unemployed men. Furthermore, even during these hard times, in 1933 the Sisters opened a three-story wing to the hospital in order to enlarge the hospital’s maternity department, which at that time could accommodate only about 10 patients. With this new maternity building, the hospital added the number of beds required for official recognition by the American Medical Association for the training of interns and residents and received full AMA approval in 1934. An obstetrical clinic opened in 1934 continued to serve the needy: poor mothers were “taken in freely in this department and given the best of care together with their newborn,” according to the minutes of a 1934 meeting of the hospital’s board of trustees.
Bon Secours Health System, Inc. is a body of people who share the healing ministry of the Sisters of Bon Secours and the Catholic Church. Our mission is to provide healthcare services to those in need, especially the poor and dying, for the purpose of alleviating human suffering and affirming human meaning in the midst of pain and loss. Recognizing the dignity of all persons, we provide compassionate healthcare services contributing to the physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being of those we serve. We commit ourselves to help bring people to wholeness by understanding and responding to healthcare needs (especially unmet needs); by developing the potential of those who serve with us; by advocating a just and equitable public-health policy; and by modeling justice in the workplace. Guided by our values and our responsibility to the communities we serve, we will achieve planned growth in response to community need while continually improving our systems and services so as to become ever more faithful to our mission.
By 1979 the Sisters of Bon Secours sponsored or staffed other facilities: a hospital in Grosse Pointe, Michigan; one in Methuen, Massachusetts; another in Richmond, Virginia, and still another in Portsmouth, Virginia. A rehabilitation hospital was set up in Miami, Florida, and a residential home for the handicapped in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. All these institutions functioned autonomously; each one reported to the Congregation’s Provincial Council. In 1979 all the Bon Secours facilities were formally incorporated into one system: the Sisters of Bon Secours Health Corporation. After a few years it became obvious that still more centralization of management was needed and Bon Secours Health System, Inc. was established for that purpose in 1983.
Expanding the Dimensions of Caring: 1983-98
BSHSI operated as a hierarchical structure under the governance of Bon Secours, Inc. (BSI), which represented the civic incorporation of the healthcare mission of the Sisters of Bon Secours. The only BSI subsidiary was BSHSI which operated, in part, through regional holding corporations at the locales of some of the larger healthcare facilities. In 1996, exploding growth of the system occasioned the grouping of all BSHSI facilities into four regions, namely, the Northeast Region, the Richmond Region, the Hampton Roads Region, and the Southeast Region.
BSHSI set leadership in its field as a goal to be reached by a four-point strategy centered on development of people, advocacy, active pursuit of growth, and of new partnerships with organizations committed to the same value system as Bon Secours. Implementation of the Continual Development System prepared employees to respond to the rapid changes occurring in the business, social, and healthcare environments. In all Bon Secours communities, special emphasis was placed on deepening the education, skills, and training of care-givers for the terminally ill and their families. As a major corporate entity, in its communities BSHSI advocated to protect human dignity and human rights by promoting economic and/or public policy at local, state, and federal levels and advocated against legislation that threatened the common good of the community, especially that of the marginalized.
BSHSI sought to cooperate with congregations of other women religious in the healthcare field. For instance, a joint venture with the Bernardine Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis for the operation of Mary Immaculate Hospital and of St. Francis Nursing Care Center in Newport News, Virginia; co-sponsorship with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth for the operation of Bon Secours-Holy Family Regional Health System in Altoona, Pennsylvania; and co-sponsorship with the Felician Sisters for the operation of Bon Secours-St. Joseph Health Care Group in Port Charlotte, Florida.
In fact, by collaborating with public and private organizations and other groups dedicated to solving problems at neighborhood, municipal, and regional levels, BSHSI served as a catalyst for positive change. For example, Bon Secours worked with pastors of churches in Detroit, Michigan, to initiate the Parish Nurse Program, which established Health Cabinets of parishioners concerned about the healing ministry of their churches. Community educational activities included health seminars, safety fairs, screenings, and the pairing of active parishioners with home-bound church members.
Bon Secours-St. Joseph Health Care Group in 1993 introduced the Care A Van program in southwest Florida. This program, affiliated with the University of South Florida Medical and Nursing Schools, was the only federally certified mobile rural health clinic in Florida and one of only a few in America. The program focused on both episodic illness and preventive healthcare, including physical examinations in public schools and daycare centers, immunization of children, early pregnancy testing, prenatal care, STD (sexually transmitted diseases) screenings, and health education. By 1998 the Care A Van program had served some 12,000 patients in southwest Florida—including about 8,000 children. Many of these patients were migrant workers and/or among the rural poor in Charlotte, Hardee, Highlands, DeSoto, and Glade counties. In Richmond, Bon Secours joined forces with local health departments, the Virginia Health Care Foundation, and Aetna Life Insurance to establish the Care A Van community program. By year-end 1998, more than 4,500 immunizations had been given to children in the city’s low-income neighborhoods.
In Norfolk, the Call a Friend project helped some 50 patients (“friends”) who lived alone and were not often in touch with family members. Volunteers contributed to the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of these people by weekly calls or visits and donations of food. In Newport News, Virginia, three Family Focus programs operated as a joint venture of BSHSI, Mary Immaculate Hospital, and Colonial Service Board. The programs, created to reduce the risk of child abuse, helped parents to raise their children from birth to age five; a variety of services—including parent education classes, play groups, and support groups—drew over 17,000 family members into these Family Focus programs. Another venture in the state of Virginia was the Jeremiah Project, organized by BSHSI and 40 pastors of racially, economically, and culturally diverse congregations in Portsmouth. These congregations, in collaboration with local government and private agencies, developed and coordinated action plans to address issues facing welfare families, namely, literacy, transportation, mentoring, and child care.
The brief descriptions of the projects mentioned above are but a sampling of how BSHSI exercised its creative leadership in the 1980s and early 1990s. Furthermore, a special fund was created to assure the continuing development of holistic health and well-being in these communities and to help other communities face their healthcare needs. Thus, the Mission Fund promoted research and development of health and human services geared to improving quality of life, particularly for groups of disenfranchised and marginalized people.
Toward the 21st Century
BSHSI, ever conscious that treatment of disease and infirmity did not suffice for a person’s total well-being, found new ways of directing its traditional energy for creative healthcare services focused on the impact of the environment, genetics, and lifestyle. Bon Secours, in order to provide quality care while holding down operational costs—among other goals—intensified a strategic program for acquisitions, mergers, and joint ventures. In 1996, for example, Bon Secours established a continuing-care division in Richmond to oversee the senior services of its Richmond community. “We now have our financial incentives aligned to make sure patients are moving through the continuum in the most cost-effective way,” said Vice-President Kathryn A. Beall, in an interview reported in the June 16, 1997 issue of Modern Healthcare. The new division included home healthcare and subacute services for seniors, a retirement condominium village, a senior health center, a health-information membership program. Here, in 1997, BSHSI became part of a joint venture between Bon Secours Richmond and Richmond-based Manorhouse Retirement Centers to open the national system’s first assisted-living facility: the Bon Secours Retirement Community at Ironbridge. Beall commented that BSHSI planned to open additional assisted-living facilities in its other markets; assisted living “is a natural in the development of our continuum of care,” said she.
Additionally, in West Baltimore, Bon Secours initiated a comprehensive multi-agency partnership, titled Operation ReachOut, to revitalize a deteriorating neighborhood glutted with boarded-up houses and reeling from a bevy of social problems. Participants in this 1997 program transformed 30 abandoned row houses into 60 apartments for low-income families. The Bon Secours Community Support Center distributed food and provided healthcare services. Furthermore, the Center offered counseling, training in parenting, activities for early-childhood development, child care, adult education, classes to prepare for graduate equivalency diplomas (GEDs), computer training, and enrollment in Women and Infant Children (WIC) classes.
“We are redefining our mission; it’s not only to take care of the sick but to partner with others to build a healthy community,” commented Bon Secours Sister Nancy Glynn, in “Building Bridges to Health,” a story published in the Feb. 11, 1997 issue of the Baltimore Sun. Indeed, the biggest challenge for Bon Secours, Sister Patricia Eck pointed out in an interview reported in the October 5, 1997 issue of Hospitals & Health Networks, consisted in creating “a successful future that focuses on compassionate care for those in need. While we must maintain our competitive posture, we have a clear advantage with our employees: most of them are here because they want to give care. There’s no confusion about our vision.... By contrast, when you mix in the profit motive, you really risk confusing your organization’s vision,” emphasized this chairperson of the BSHSI board.
In short, as a new millennium drew near, Bon Secours Health Systems, Inc. had found innovative ways of providing “good help to those in need.” It was going beyond the walls of traditional nursing to meet the immediate and long-range holistic health and related social/economic needs of the communities it served. To this end BSHSI was continuing to develop, coordinate, and implement the array of services, processes, and delivery mechanisms required to assure a continuum of care —compassionate care from the cradle to the grave—for the poor, the sick, and the dying.
Bon Secours Healthcare System, Inc. is structured as 15 Bon Secours subsidiaries/affiliates that, in turn, include nine parent corporations to which are related 126 other subsidiary/affiliated entities. The nine parent corporations are: Bon Secours of Michigan Health Care System, Inc.; Mary Immaculate Hospital, Incorporated; Bon Secours-Richmond Health Corporation; Bon Secours Holy Family Regional Health System; Bon Secours-Venice Healthcare Corporation; Bon Secours-Maryview Health Corporation; Bon Secours-St. Joseph HealthCare Group, Inc.; Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital; and Bon Secours-Baltimore Health Corporation.
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“Bon Secours Enjoying Rapid Growth in Virginia,” Catholic Health World, Feb. 15, 1997, pp. 1, 4.
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—Gloria A. Lemieux