It is the fifth-largest health system in the US with 39 hospitals across three states, 22 of which are Catholic-ethos facilities.
A spokesperson for the California-based not-for-profit corporation, responding to media queries, confirmed that its executives had visited Ireland two weeks ago.
According to one report, the healthcare provider had talks earlier this month with up to six Irish hospitals about forming partnerships or even making acquisitions.
It is understood that Dignity Health representatives also met with management of the Bon Secours in Cork, one of the largest independent hospitals in Europe.
Dignity Health was founded in 1986 by the Sisters of Mercy under the name Catholic Healthcare West, when they joined their 10 hospitals together.
The Sisters of Mercy, founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin in 1831, vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness, and a lack of education.
In 1854, eight sisters arrived in San Francisco and began caring for residents in the city who had been struck by cholera, then typhoid and influenza. They founded St Mary’s Hospital, now the oldest continuously operating hospital in the city.
In 2012, the company’s corporate governance structure changed, moving it out of the Catholic Church and resulting in a name change to Dignity Health. Its headquarters are in San Francisco.
The name change was to better describe what it stood for. “To us, dignity means showing respect for all people by providing excellent care and helping them lead healthy, meaningful lives,” the corporation states on its website.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar told RTÉ’s Marian Finucane he was not aware whether Dignity Health was considering healthcare ventures in Ireland.
He also said hospitals would be ready to deal with a situation similar to the Paris attacks on November 13 but admitted it would not be easy for to deal with 70 to 100 major casualties. “It would be hard to cope,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said major emergency plans would be put into effect and this would involve all staff being called in, discharging any patients that could be discharged and moving any patients already on trolleys waiting to be admitted up to the wards.
He said all casualties would be brought into the emergency departments to be treated and all out-patient clinics would be cancelled on the day and used to treat minor injuries: “It would not be pretty but we have major emergency plans and they are tested from time to time.”