“Hospitals Dropped as Health Services Expands Total Worldwide Program,” Ensign, Nov. 1974, 126–27
Borrowing from the age-old concept that prevention is better than cure, the Church Health Services Corporation has stepped out of the bricks-and-mortar hospital business in the United States to concentrate on better health education for the Saints worldwide.
Explaining the decision to divest the Church of its 15 hospitals in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, the First Presidency said that “the growing worldwide responsibility of the Church makes it difficult to justify provision of curative services in a single, affluent, geographical locality.”
The First Presidency said the decision came after “thorough study and consideration,” and added that it “in no way signifies loss of interest or concern on the part of the Church for the sick and afflicted. To the contrary, it provides greater flexibility as the Church assists members and others everywhere with their temporal needs. Worldwide Health Services, which emphasizes disease prevention and assists people in various parts of the world to appropriately use local health facilities and personnel, is being expanded to a major degree.”
The total net worth of the hospitals is $61 million, with a physical facilities replacement value of approximately $107 million. It is anticipated that under the terms of transfer, a newly formed corporation will assume all current hospital indebtedness to the Church, which amounts to approximately $28 million in loan balances.
However, the First Presidency emphasized that “the Church will turn over to the new corporation a vigorous and financially viable enterprise.”
Headed by Salt Lake City business executive William N. Jones, a Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve, the new corporation’s board of trustees is comprised both of members and nonmembers of the Church whose backgrounds are in medicine, hospital administration, business, and education.
Brother Jones said that the board, which is self-perpetuating and completely independent of the Church, would first seek a president “who would be one of the best administrators anywhere. After a president is found, then we can formulate policy guidelines. I expect perhaps a more rapid growth of facilities and services, but certainly not any revolutionary changes.”
Among the better-known hospitals within the 15-unit group are the 570-bed Latter-day Saint Hospital and the Primary Children’s Medical Center, both located in Salt Lake City. The latter facility has been the focus of the annual Primary Children’s Penny Parade each year as Saints around the world have donated funds toward its operation. Although the center is no longer owned by the Church, the Primary Penny Parade will continue, but in a slightly different manner.
Sister LaVern W. Parmley, formerly Primary general president, says that the Penny Parade, started in the early 1920s and scheduled for mid-January through mid-February in 1975, will still play an important function in providing financial assistance for children in need.
“Instead of concentrating our efforts at the Primary Children’s Medical Center,” she says, “we are now in a position to offer assistance wherever the need arises. For example, if a child needs special medical care in another country, then we may make a grant to the hospital where that child is being treated. We have yet to finalize all the administrative details but, yes, the Primary Penny Parade is still important.”
Other hospitals involved in the transfer are the Cottonwood Hospital, Salt Lake City; McKay-Dee Hospital Center, Ogden, Utah; Logan LDS Hospital, Logan, Utah; Utah Valley Hospital, Provo, Utah; Sanpete LDS Hospital, Mt. Pleasant, Utah; Sevier Valley Church Hospital, Richfield, Utah; Panguitch LDS Hospital, Panguitch, Utah; Fillmore LDS Hospital, Fillmore, Utah; Idaho Falls LDS Hospital, Idaho Falls, Idaho; and the Star Valley LDS Hospital, Afton, Wyoming.
In diverting the Church Health Services from the operation of localized physical facilities to the general well-being of the Church membership, the First Presidency emphasized that this “will require a substantial increase in the number of Health Services missionaries.”
Health Services missionaries serve 18 months at their own expense in developmental areas on American Indian reservations, in Mexico, Central America, South America, in the South Pacific, and in the Orient. Most missionaries are nurses, but they also include doctors, dentists, home economists, and nutritionists who work primarily in disease prevention rather than treatment. Since the program began in 1971, the number of these missionaries has grown to 120. Under Church Welfare Services, health and medical guidance is provided through medical practitioners who serve on ward, stake, or regional welfare councils and through the Health Services missionary program.
Health Services also assists in preparing Relief Society lessons on health and nutrition, and it serves proselyting missionaries with immunization schedules, health instruction, and assistance in case of illness or injury. Under the new plan, Health Services will be expanded “to a major degree.”
The primary objective of Church Health Services is to make good health possible throughout the world for Church members. According to Dr. James O. Mason, Church commissioner of Health Services, “Our concern is not entirely with the physical health of the individual. We try to serve the ecclesiastical objectives of the Church by recognizing that spiritual growth is usually enhanced when a person is enjoying good physical health.”
Dr. Mason said that the demand for Health Services missionaries outweighs the numbers in the field. “We need more trained people who meet the regular missionary requirements and who are willing to devote a small part of their lives to utilizing their skills for the benefit of their brothers and sisters.”
Persons interested in becoming a Health Services missionary should contact their bishop or branch president.