Louisiana Catholic hospitals could add Mississippi hospital

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Louisiana Catholic hospital system is likely to take control of one of Mississippi's largest hospitals.

St. Dominic's Health Services, which runs a 571-bed hospital in Jackson and associated clinics, said Friday that its founding Catholic religious order has started talks to hand over control to a different Catholic group.

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, said their dwindling numbers make it "unsustainable" for that religious order to continue overseeing St. Dominic Hospital, which has about 3,000 employees. The sisters started work in Jackson in 1946, when they bought an existing hospital.

"We want St. Dominic's to continue to serve Mississippi for generations yet to come, but our diminishing numbers cannot sustain our role as its sponsor," Sister M. Dorothea Sondgeroth, associate executive director of St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, said in a statement. "It has been a difficult decision, yet it's the right one for our organization and for our community because it will help St. Dominic's secure its future."

The Dominicans have entered talks to hand over sponsorship to another religious order, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Sisters. That group oversees a hospital system anchored by Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. St. Dominic would become part of that system, which also includes Louisiana hospitals in Lafayette, Monroe, Gonzales and Bogalusa. A handover is expected early next year.

Spokesman Andy North said being part of a larger health system will provide added resources to St. Dominic. Hospitals in Mississippi and across the country have been merging into larger networks to increase their bargaining power with insurers and share the cost of large expenses.

North didn't immediately respond Friday to questions about whether the Louisiana system would pay any money as part of the takeover or whether there would be any change in employment.

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