Bishop Meets with Mercy Health Ministry Chairman About Merger

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock met on Friday with Charles E. Thoele, chairman of the board of Mercy Health Ministry, and Mercy board member Roch Rockledge about Mercy's plans to sell Mercy Hot Springs to Capella Healthcare.

According to the diocese, "Thoele and Sr. Roch Rockledge had a frank discussion" about the Catholic church's concerns over the merger. 

Taylor, in a statement released in April, expressed "serious reservations" about the purchase of Mercy Hot Springs, formerly St. Joseph's Mercy Health System, to Capella, the parent company of National Park Medical Center.

Specifically, Taylor said he was concerned about the "negative impact this purchase could have on the medical care available to the poor and on the Hot Springs community in general."

In November, the Vatican asked that Mercy address the bishop's concerns about the deal. Mercy's relationship to the Catholic Church requires approval from the Vatican.

In September, Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn., and Mercy Health announced they had signed an asset purchase agreement for the two Hot Springs organizations to merge under Capella's ownership.

A news release at the time said the final phase of the sale was expected to take 60 to 90 days, subject to regulatory and Vatican approval.

According to the diocese, Thoele and Rockledge assured Taylor at Friday's meeting that they will bring Taylor's concerns to their next board meeting, scheduled for Dec. 13-14 in St. Louis. 

"This is all I want to comment on right now, to give Mercy Health Ministry the needed time to consider their next steps based on the response we received from the Vatican," Taylor said in a news release.