A controversial agreement that left some critics calling Sierra Vista "the town with no birth control" has been dissolved.

Carondelet Health Network and Sierra Vista Regional Health Center announced this week that the two-year integrative network agreement they entered last year will be discontinued in early April.

Critics cited a prohibition on sterilization procedures that occurred at the Sierra Vista hospital as a result of the agreement. Since Carondelet is a Catholic network, Catholic rules applied when the agreement took effect.

"During the past year, both parties have conducted a significant amount of due diligence, and have determined that there are too many complexities involved in a formal partnership," Ruth W. Brinkley, president and chief executive officer of Carondelet Health Network, said in a prepared statement. "In the end, the partnership is unable to deliver to either party the outcomes we had originally envisioned."

Margaret Hepburn, president and CEO of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, released a statement saying the relationship between the two entities was very positive and they collaborated on several initiatives they plan to continue.

"Our Board of Trustees evaluated the agreement with input from the hospital's many stakeholders on all the aspects of the partnership," Hepburn said. "Ultimately, the board determined that the best course of action for our hospital and our community was to maintain a collaborative relationship with Carondelet rather than to continue with the Integrative Network Agreement."

At the time of the agreement last year, officials of the Sierra Vista hospital said joining forces would give them more in-depth resources. Carondelet officials had said the agreement would allow them to leverage assets across a wider geographic area as a way of achieving efficiencies and cost savings.

The national MergerWatch Project, which says its mission is ensuring that health care is guided by unbiased medical information and each patient's own religious or ethical beliefs, issued a statement saying the affiliation was wrong for the community.

The project's director, Lois Uttley, said one obstetrician left Sierra Vista in protest and that another doctor was forced to send a patient 80 miles away to a hospital in Tucson for a pregnancy termination after she miscarried one of two 15-week twins at home and it was clear the remaining twin could not survive.

The national Center for Reproductive Rights also applauded the decision to end the network agreement.

"This is a tremendous victory for women's rights in this community and across the country where women are often denied medical care because of Catholic hospital mergers," center researcher Karen Leiter said in a news release.

DID YOU KNOW

Carondelet Health Network operates four hospitals in Southern Arizona as well as the Carondelet Neurological Institute, primary care and specialty care offices, ambulatory surgery centers and various outpatient services.

Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, which has a long history of providing care to Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca, is an 88-bed hospital.

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 520-572-4134.