Health Care

UAB Prez: Purchase of Ascension St. Vincent’s to Ensure Health-Care Access

The UAB Health System is set to take over Ascension St. Vincent’s Health System properties in Central Alabama in a $450 million deal officials said would ensure continuing quality health care for people in Birmingham and surrounding communities.

The system’s board of trustees unanimously approved the acquisition during a meeting Tuesday morning.

“We will be stronger for our patients, communities, employees and associates … and continue providing access to the highest-quality care in Birmingham and surrounding communities,” UAB President Ray Watts said during a press conference at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.

Under this agreement, the UAB Health System Authority will take ownership of all St. Vincent’s care sites, including hospitals in southern and eastern Birmingham as well as Blount, Chilton and St. Clair counties; the One Nineteen Campus; the Trussville Freestanding Emergency Department; and imaging centers and ambulatory clinics that are part of Ascension Medical Group.

“The transaction will include current Ascension St. Vincent’s services, facilities, caregivers and associates, including a robust network of health care providers,” Watts said.

With hospitals closing at a rapid rate across the country, this merger aims to strengthen Alabama hospitals, support care providers and enhance community outreach and service through partnerships, ultimately improving the state’s health care ecosystem.

UAB President Ray Watts (UAB livestream)

UAB Health System CEO Dawn Bulgarella, who also serves as CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance, took the podium and celebrated the acquisition as a significant milestone for Alabama.

“Ascension St. Vincent’s has served our community well (since 1898) and we are excited to honor and continue St. Vincent’s culture and legacy,” she said.

The UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance, launched in 2020, was created to increase Alabamians’ access to high-quality care. Both health care entities share the same values regarding patients, caregivers and associates, Bulgarella said. “We have continued to discuss options to better deliver on our collective missions in an increasingly complex health care environment,” Bulgarella said. “It became clear that a deeper affiliation between Ascension St. Vincent’s and the UAB Health System would ensure the community has sustainable, quality health care access long into the future.”

The $450 million acquisition is set to be completed in the fall, pending standard regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of closing conditions, including approval by the Catholic Church.

“Until that time, UAB Health System and Ascension St. Vincent’s will continue normal operations while their teams collaborate to plan a smooth transition,” Bulgarella added.

Bulgarella said job security for approximately 5,000 Ascension St. Vincent’s employees would not be threatened by this transition.

“We look forward to supporting the continued operations of community physician practices and providing opportunities for Ascension St. Vincent’s caregivers and associates to remain in their current roles without having to reapply for their jobs. Employee compensation and benefits are anticipated to remain comparable,” she said. She said clinical leadership also will remain the same.

“UAB will make new and increased financial investments into clinical and other important infrastructure,” Bulgarella said. “UAB also plans to use a co-branded model for current St. Vincent’s locations to honor and embrace the St. Vincent’s people and culture.”

Ascension’s sale of central Alabama properties is the latest in a series of moves the company has made to manage financial hardships, which include a $3 billion operating loss in fiscal year 2023. It also has sold properties in Mobile and in several other states, including New York, Michigan and Kansas.