St. Vincent Healthcare CEO Steve Loveless said Friday the Billings hospital will continue talks with the developers of a proposed for-profit medical school, saying he doesn't believe recent ethnically insensitive and sexist remarks attributed to an executive reflect the whole organization.
Loveless wrote in a news release that St. Vincent executives have met with community leaders, their own board of directors and leaders at Rocky Vista University, which has proposed building the Montana College of Osteopathic Medicine on Billings West End.
The $78 million project came under fire earlier this week when officials at Billings Clinic, the state's largest hospital, announced they were ending talks with Medforth Global Healthcare Education, the private equity firm that owns Rocky Vista.
Clinic officials cited instances where a Rocky Vista official "cast aspersions" on a rival proposed nonprofit medical school in Great Falls for its Jewish heritage, noting that a Jewish school may not assimilate well in Montana and referred to a Billings Clinic female leader as a "token."
Loveless wrote that St. Vincent has "zero tolerance" for discrimination and take the allegations seriously, but he appreciates the swift actions of Rocky Vista to investigate the matter and understands the need for more training for medical professionals in the area.
Loveless's statement comes a day after Big Sky Economic Development, which helped court Rocky Vista to Billings, announced it would continue its support of the project.
Here's Loveless's full statement:
At the core of SCL Health St. Vincent Healthcare’s mission is to meet the healthcare needs of our community, especially in underserved and rural areas across this great state and in this region. In order to fulfill the essence of our mission we must help meet the growing and unmet demand for skilled medical professionals in Montana and northern Wyoming.
There has been tremendous public discussion recently of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We are grateful and look forward to positive change in society as a result. SCL Health St. Vincent Healthcare has a zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and is steadfast in its commitment to addressing issues of human dignity. The principles of DEI have been fundamental elements of our ministry reflected in our mission and values, and deeply ingrained in our work by our Founders, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.
We take seriously the allegations that have been made towards a potential community partner and those working to address the provider shortage. In light of these recent concerns, we have met with our community leaders, our board of directors and the leadership of Rocky Vista University (RVU). We appreciate the transparent conversations that are taking place, the swift actions by RVU leadership, and are encouraged believing that the actions of a few are not representative of the values of the RVU organization. We will continue this discernment and look forward to our meetings with the RVU team in the coming days.
The need for skilled medical professionals in Montana and northern Wyoming is real. Ensuring we have an aligned and committed community partner to address the need is critical. St. Vincent Healthcare continues to support this potential community partner with the proposed Rocky Vista University Montana College of Osteopathic Medicine in Billings while we complete our internal discernment process.