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In 1998, St. Mary Hospital and Methodist Hospital Systems merged to become Covenant Health System. The St. Mary Hospital became Covenant Medical Center Lakeside.

Methodists embrace merger vote; clears way for Covenant

1998 MIDLAND - The cross-and-flame symbol on Methodist Hospital will come down, and a symbol representing a new hospital system forged by the merger of Methodist and St. Mary Hospital will take its place.

The Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church cleared the way Thursday for a merger between the two hospital systems with a near-unanimous vote of approval by 800 delegates. The new hospital system will be called Covenant Health System.

"It's going to be good for the region and community for a lot of reasons, and it's something that is going to last a long time,'' said Alan White, chairman of Methodist Hospital Systems.

White appeared to be visibly relieved and admitted that he came to the conference "with some concern because you never know.''

Some of that concern stemmed from an anonymous letter of opposition sent to delegates last week. Dirk Murchison, an attorney for the Methodist board, told delegates that claims in the letter that Methodists were making a donation to the Catholics, and that the Catholics would select the board for the merged hospital system, were incorrect.

"We have a legal statement that it is a joint ministry,'' Murchison said.

Retired Lubbock County Judge Rod Shaw of Lubbock's First United Methodist Church, quipped after the vote, "Anybody willing to pay my $200 million debt off is a friend of mine.''

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange operate St. Joseph Health System. It owns St. Mary Hospital and will assume about $225 million in bond debt held by Methodist. The two hospitals agreed in 1996 to merge because of, among other things, an overabundance of hospital beds in Lubbock, a slowdown in federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid, the advent of managed care and reduced length of patient stays.

Charley Trimble, president and CEO of St. Mary, will be the chief executive officer of the new Covenant Hospital System. George McCleskey, chief executive officer for Methodist Hospital, will be an executive vice president.

Methodist will become the acute-care facility and will be called Covenant Medical Center. St. Mary will become Covenant Lakeside, McCleskey said.

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