Catholic and Adventist Health Systems Join Forces in Walla Walla

On April 3 it was announced that Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) and Providence St. Mary Medical Center, both located in Walla Walla, Washington, will unite under what is being called a “transfer of membership.”

In a joint press release issued by Providence Health and Adventist Health, Joyce Newmyer, President of Adventist Health Pacific Northwest Region and Board Chair of Walla Walla General Hospital said, “While the landscape of healthcare is being reshaped, it is important to continually meet the needs of the local community.”

This local community of southeastern Washington metro area numbers approximately 45,000 and has had two hospitals – WWGH and St. Mary – for over a century. Both will continue to serve the community under “one seamless, coordinated system of care.” Elaine Couture, chief executive officer for Providence Health & Services in Eastern Washington, added, “The demand for health care in this community doesn’t change as a result of this. It is Providence’s goal to keep doctors, advanced practitioners and other caregivers in the community.”

There may be some staff reductions Couture goes on to state, but “Providence’s intent is to employ a significant number of Adventist Health employees.” There are currently 440 WWGH employees, including physicians. St. Mary currently employs 1,153 people. Many vacant positions are being purposefully left open to help with the melding of the two hospitals. Newmyer and Couture also cited the national trend of health care providers reaching retirement age, which is creating positions all across the country, including Walla Walla.

Newmyer stressed that this transfer of control, slated for July, is “not a sale” but a “form of affiliation called a sponsorship or membership substitution.” Adventist Health will transfer membership control of Walla Walla General Hospital, including Adventist Health Medical Group and Home Care Services in Walla Walla, to Providence.

Providence, in turn, will set up a $14 million restricted fund, to be controlled by Adventist Health. The fund is earmarked for community health care needs and will be distributed over 24 years.

Newmyer described the creation of this fund as a way to “build on our Adventist Health legacy of wellness and prevention,” while moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar-based model to more innovative initiatives. “It will be a fresh expression of our mission that provides a way for us to live out our commitment to serve the people of this community. And while the details of how this will look are still in the formative stage, the possibilities for innovation are quite promising for the community.”

Couture and Newmyer both stressed the importance of honoring the long histories St. Mary and WWGH have in the Walla Walla community.

“We want to always honor both heritages,” Couture stated. “We do have great respect for each other’s mission. This is not about Adventist or Catholic, but about Jesus’ healing.”

Newmyer added, “We serve the same God and follow the same purpose.”

WATCH: Joyce Newmyer and Elaine Couture Announce “New Chapter” for Healthcare in Walla Walla

Read the entire press release here.

Alisa Williams is Managing Editor of

Image Credit:

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I am very pleased to see this happening. It signifies a major step forward in the church’s witness to Christ.
It reminded me of what happened at Andrews in 1969. The president and the dean of Saint Mary’s College at Notre Dame, IN, approached Andrews to send them someone to teach protestant theology and suggested that they would send one of their faculty to teach whatever Andrews would choose. The first option seemed to be someone to teach Russian history, since Andrews did not have a faculty member teaching that and the need to know more about Russian history and language was very much alive. As it happened, I was chosen to teach protestant theology at Saint Mary’s, but Andrews could not have a Catholic teaching anything on campus. In the end, my teaching at St. Mary’s was part of my teaching load at Andrews and St. Mary’s paid Andrews for my services. I hope those days are over and what is happening at Walla Walla marks the way of the future. Dogmatic sectarians are not the future of those witnessing to Christ.


There shouldn’t be any problem with this arrangement…as long as the missions/goals of the two corporations are the same.


A sad day for the church and the Adventist health “system.” As I wrote in a letter to the Review many years ago when a similar thing took place with another SDA hospital (and I’m paraphrasing), "One can’t help but wonder if sometime in the future we’ll read of a merger between the Adventist and Catholic journals, with the new magazine to be called The Advent Review and Sunday Visitor.

If we had followed the SOP counsel about establishing health institutions, I doubt we’d be seeing this kind of think take place. Never mind the SOP; whatever happened to “be ye not unequally yoked . . . . ?”

I worked at Walla Walla General 40 years ago, and it was a good institution then.


The union of Catholicism and apostate Protestantism! The End must be near . . .


This isn’t a step forward for interfaith relations. It’s Adventist Health trying to distance itself from a load of debt brought on by poor administration.

I’m not sure why no-one’s bothering to report on this, because the data’s out there.

The Washington State Department of Health publishes financial data for hospitals in the state. The last year that both WWGH and Providence St. Mary’s reported was 2014. You can download the complete dataset here.

In 2014, Providence St. Mary’s had a net revenue of $1.6 million, and a cash balance of $68,000. That same year, WWGH had a net loss of -$8.8 million, and a “cash” balance of -$35-Million.

Once, or if WWGH ever files their reports for 2015 and 2016, I’m sure we’ll see a picture of an institution plunging further into debt. If they were $35-million in debt 3-years ago, I can’t imagine how much more debt they’re in today.

WWGH is (was) well-loved in the community, and by its patients. If you take a look at Medicare’s data comparing outcomes and patient experiences at the two hospitals, you’ll see that they’re essentially the same in the measured and reported data.

So how does a well-loved hospital delivering above-average clinical care manage to be so far in debt that it has no alternative but to be taken over by its historical rival?

You’ve got two options:

  1. Incompetent Administration
  2. Theft

I hope someone digs to the bottom of the story and finds out which caused the downfall of the WWGH, and the end of an institution.


I read this three days ago:


on the other hand, if the catholic church is complementing what we’re trying to do in the relatively small town of walla walla - who obviously can’t afford to sustain two hospital systems - it makes sense to work together as much as possible, instead of duplicating some services and not providing others…recall that comradery was egw’s attitude towards the women’s christian temperance union…for instance, she encouraged sarepta henry to continue working with WCTU even after her baptism, even though WCTU was a non-adventist women’s ministry that advocated sunday laws, of all things…egw believed mrs. henry could be an effective witness within WCTU…

are we perhaps thinking that the people running WWGH were unaware of egw’s example with WCTU when uniting with st. mary’s…

1 Like

Well I guess there will be one less Board member on the UCC executive committee now…I mean since after all…A catholic administrator would have as much or more right to be there as an adventists one.

‘God’s purpose in giving the third angel’s message to the world is to prepare a people to stand true to Him during the investigative judgement. This is the purpose for which we maintain our publishing house, our schools, our sanitariums, hygienic restaurants, treatment rooms and food factories. This is our purpose in carrying forward every line of work for the cause’. POSDAI 32.2
This ‘tranfer’ seems to me as a result of making of non-effect the Testimonies of Jesus.

1 Like

Face it peoplethere is no difference between the Catholic and Sda church except the lip service paid to the Sabbath.

The call in Revelation was to " come out of her my people" Trouble is in coming out the early SDAs brought their baggage with them much like Rachael bringing her family idols with her into the Promised Land

Ralph T

Whether run by Catholics or SDA’s, we are headed towards a single payer, single provider health care system similar to the UK which will be an NHS modeled system. For Adventists, loss of control will occur before the eventual NHS model emerges. The losses of Madison in Nashville and Walla Walla, are all known to be the result of inept management. The for profit medical industrial complex (even under the guise of non-profit) is a walking corpse. Financially unsustainable. The end will come sooner for SDA institutions, which may not be a bad thing.

1 Like

Wow…you could have fooled me.

Do you realize that Adventist hospitals today are not yesterday’s Adventist sanitariums?

Do you realize that there is very lithe about an Adventist hospital now that is evangelistic?

Have you ever been to Walla Walla? (I used to live there and teach at WWC.) It is a rather isolated area (geographically) with a relatively low population density. It should not be surprising that it can’t support two hospitals anymore. It would not have surprised me to hear that the Adventist hospital had simply been sold to the Catholic hospital system (Providence). Instead, the Adventist health system is looking away to continue its influence in the Walla Walla Valley. Is that a harbinger of the end of time?

For me to see this as a sign of the end, I’d have to believe as a did when I was a child. Every dark cloud in the sky was Jesus on His way to take us to heaven. A Catholic president (Kennedy) was going to cause the end of time. The cross belonged to Catholics, and good Adventists should reject its symbolism while we sang “The Old Rugged Cross”.

If this is a sign of the end, why not rejoice? Why, then, would you resist it and seem fearful of it? I don’t understand Adventists who see a sign of the end in anything they don’t understand or agree with, and bemoan it. I say, “E’en so, Lord, quickly come!”

While this change in Walla Walla may be surprising, to call it a sign of the end is like Chicken Little crying that “the sky is falling”. Give it a chance. God could use it for good! Through Him, ALL things are possible.


The sad thing is that will reduce the ability of women to choose critical healthcare including contraceptive services and termination of unwanted pregnancies which Adventist facilities can offer. Catholic hospitals do not offer these services and are not willing to be complicit with those that do.

Strike another blow for the anti-choice crowd.

1 Like

Having spent some time in both an SDA hospital (I can only speak for the one) and a Providence affiliated hospital, I have to say the Providence hospital lives out it’s mission much better.

“As People of Providence,we reveal God’s love for all,especially the poor and vulnerable,through our compassionate service.”

It is sad that others will be taking the lead in the medical ministry there but there could be much worse options.
I see this more as a result of the age we live in (many hospitals scrambling and closing/merging etc.) and mismanagement, probably having to compete with Providence St. Mary’s in a small town didn’t help.

Having worked for Walla Walla General Hospital laboratory for several years, I was deeply saddened by the news that Adventist Health just gave away a hospital, clinic and home health company for essentially nothing. The upgrade to the hospital that occurred while I was there cost more than 14 million. I feel bad for all my friends that are still there trying to make sense of all of this. The Adventist religion and the Catholic religion have almost nothing in common. Theologically, they are as far apart as two religions can be. Their mission may be similar, but to unite an Adventist entity with a Roman Catholic one seems insane!
Why this had to happen? I believe poor management by the company called Adventist Health is the major reason. I think that promoting good church members to high levels of management regardless of their abilities is a prime culprit. A lack of mission mindedness among many of the workers, this wasn’t just a worldly hospital competing for bucks, this was a Seventh Day Adventist Mission of Health to the Walla Walla Valley. And thirdly, a lack of support by the Seventh Day Adventists of the Valley was another. A good friend of mine who was a head elder at one of the Adventist Churches in walla walla told me once, he wouldn’t take his wife to our hospital or go there himself, because we weren’t good enough.
Another friend told me if a doctor graduated from LLU, don’t go to them, they are the worst doctors in town.
And then there is the changing healthcare world as we know it. But I know that when I worked there, it was one of the busiest laboratories I have ever worked for, and being situated near one of the major Adventist ghettos, there is just no good reason that this had to happen. I’ve worked in health care for 36 years, and believe me, I sincerely doubt that the Sisters of Providence have very little incentive to keep our little Adventist Hospital in business. About all we can do now is pray for Walla Walla General Hospital and all the great people who work there.

It’s my understanding that in the SDA system, only SDA’s can hold the upper management positions. If you aren’t SDA, you can only go so far in the organization.

I have a friend who is the CEO of a Catholic hospital, even though he is SDA. It seems that in the Catholic system they hire the best person, regardless of their religion. I’m not totally sure if this is the case all the time (it may be), but it certainly is in the hospital where my friend is the CEO.

This reminds me of an overheard conversation reported to my relation (an elder) of several decades ago. He mentioned this at that time because a somewhat similar this happened when the Harris Pine Mills was left to the church in a will. It didn’t take long for the church administrators to take a successful business, and run the place down and have to close down. Coming back to the overheard conversation of decades ago at a guided tour of one of our institutions two nuns were overheard to say, “isn’t it great that this will be ours one day.” Just like this situation, the Jesuits (male or female) are busy. Its a classic. Run the place down and then take over cheaply.
Now if only we had followed God’s plan for the right arm of the message!!!

1 Like

Yes, I believe that you are correct, in fact it goes much deeper than that. The EEO statement of the hospital does
not include the standard word religion in it. That’s because the government made a loophole for churches so they
don’t have to hire leadership from among unbelievers. However, after working for them for several years, I’m not
so sure how “Adventist” Adventist health really is. One of the higher managers that came to help out during the
last year I was there was the late Karen Love, a Roman Catholic.