Major changes for local health care providers
Marshfield Clinic to partner with Aspirus in Wisconsin Rapids and Eau Claire, St. Joseph’s to undergo significant renovations
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — In a press release Wednesday morning, the Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) announced it has signed a non-binding letter of intent to partner with Aspirus Inc. with plans to build or acquire a co-owned “hospital of the future” in Eau Claire as well as allow MCHS “a minority interest in Aspirus Riverview Hospital in Wisconsin Rapids.” These developments will not impact the planned building of a new Marshfield Clinic hospital in Marshfield, said MCHS CEO Dr. Susan Turney.
“We will be building a hospital of the future in Marshfield,” Turney said. She added that the new hospital in Marshfield would hopefully open in about two years.
Turney said that she applauded Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital for their planned renovations to create private room care but said it was difficult to see what the future would hold in terms of the relationship between Marshfield Clinic and Ministry.
“I think it’s hard right now to predict exactly what the future will look like with respect to our relationship with Ministry. I believe both organizations are committed to providing the best care for our community, and having said that, what the relationships of the future will look like are just not clear,” Turney said.
She added even prior to construction of a new hospital, Marshfield Clinic can begin to move some of the services they provide in Saint Joseph’s to the east wing of the Marshfield Clinic.
“Right now in our east wing we have the capability to expand our ambulatory surgery center as well as provide beds for extended care, which will allow us to move some of the services that we currently provide in the hospital to an ambulatory center,” Turney said.
The press release said that leaders from Aspirus and Marshfield hope to advance the Wisconsin Rapids and Eau Claire initiatives “within two to three years.”
“We plan to share a relationship with Aspirus in Wisconsin Rapids, and they’ve made a significant investment in that community. We will be looking to build a new (or acquire an existing) hospital in the Eau Claire area, which is a new market for Aspirus,” Turney said.
Aspirus recently acquired Riverview Hospital in Wisconsin Rapids and currently does not have a presence in Eau Claire. The press release stated that both Aspirus and Marshfield Clinic will remain separate entities and that this partnership is not a merger or acquisition.
Turney said that both physician groups from Aspirus and Marshfield Clinic will eventually provide services in Aspirus Riverview Hospital.
In the planned co-owned Eau Claire hospital, Turney said that MCHS’ brand would be “prominently displayed.”
“We feel very strongly about maintaining our identity in that community,” Turney said.
Turney said the goal of all of the initiatives MCHS is undertaking is to provide affordable, quality care for patients.
Creating private rooms at the center of St. Joseph’s renovation plans
Ministry Health Care announced major initiatives that will grow its footprint throughout the state of Wisconsin in a press release on Monday, April 13. Specifically in Marshfield, Ministry will undertake a process of renovating Saint Joseph’s Hospital to create an “all-private room care environment.” Ministry will also expand services in the Wausau, Stevens Point, Minocqua, and Rhinelander areas.
In the release Daniel Neufelder, president and CEO of Ministry Health Care, said it was important to lower costs for patients and modernize their operations.
“We must continue to lower costs, increase the consistency with which we deliver high quality services, and improve access to care. We believe these actions will propel us well into the future to enable us to meet the evolving needs of the communities and patients we serve,” Neufelder said in the release.
Brian Kief, president of Saint Joseph’s Hospital, said that it is too early in the planning process to have a precise estimate for the cost of the renovations or a time frame for when the project would begin in Marshfield. (Editor’s note: Comments from Brian Kief come from his interview with Hub City Times on Tuesday, April 14, which was prior to the Marshfield Clinic’s announcement covered above.)
“We know we can do this at a fairly reasonable cost because remodeling is much more cost effective or cost efficient than building new, but we don’t have the plans developed to the point yet that we can be articulating what it will cost,” Kief said. He added that the renovation would impact “large portions” of the hospital, but the exact number of rooms it would affect is not known.
“The main focus will be to create private rooms. Inevitably and appropriately we will impact other parts of the facility, … but the primary focus is private rooms, private baths, all of the different aspects that come with private rooms for our patients,” Kief said.
Kief added that Ministry has long planned to create private rooms for patients in Marshfield and that those long-held plans operated under the assumption of working with the Marshfield Clinic. Kief said with the news of the Marshfield Clinic’s plans to build its own hospital in Marshfield, Saint Joseph’s had to reassess its own strategic plans.
“When the new Marshfield Clinic board and leadership announced a change in strategic direction, we did decide that it was in our best interest to take the last several months and really evaluate that—what we’re hearing, what we’re seeing—and evaluate that new strategic direction announced by the Clinic in the context of our priorities and what we need in order to continue to be a leader in Wisconsin health care delivery.”
Kief added that Marshfield Clinic’s actions would not ultimately alter the planned renovations at Saint Joseph’s.
“We definitely will continue to assess what others do, the Marshfield Clinic, as well as other health care providers and our plans then become a combination of proactive—things that we decide we’re doing—as well as needing to then react in the market. I can say with confidence that we are proceeding with this initiative as well as a host of other initiatives as was shared in the press release yesterday (Monday) that are not dependent on what the Marshfield Clinic decides to do,” Kief said.
Saint Joseph’s has had “virtually no dialogue” with the Marshfield Clinic since mid-December 2014, Kief said, but added that they remain open to continuing their working relationship with the Clinic.
Kief said that the renovation plans have many steps to go through before work would begin.
“There’s a several-month process ahead of us before we get to construction,” Kief said.