Aspirus Health closes on 7 Ascension Health hospitals, 21 clinics

Aspirus Health has wrapped up a deal to acquire seven Wisconsin hospitals from Ascension Health, the former announced Monday.

Announced in January, the deal also includes 21 physician clinics as well as the air and ground transportation services serving northern and central Wisconsin. The health systems did not disclose a price tag for the transaction.

“This acquisition will help Aspirus provide better and more connected care to thousands and thousands more people in our region,” said Matthew Heywood, president and CEO of Aspirus Health, in a statement. “We are mission-driven to provide small communities with convenient access to compassionate, excellent care. We are excited to work with our new team members to serve more communities like the ones we call home.”

The deal brings Wisconsin-based Apsirus to a total of 13 hospitals within the state, in addition to four others in Michigan. The nonprofit system has also added 2,700 new employees to its workforce and upped its clinic count to 75 as a result of the acquisition.

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The seven Wisconsin hospitals transferred in the deal are: Eagle River Hospital in Eagle River, Good Samaritan Hospital in Merrill, Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff, Our Lady of Victory Hospital in Stanley, Sacred Heart Hospital in Tomahawk, St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander and St. Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point.

Aspirus said in the announcement that it will eventually be rebranding the names of its new hospitals and clinics, but for now is keeping facility names in place “to avoid confusion.”

Patients will not be assigned a new care provider as a result of the transaction, the system said, and they should not see any immediate changes to their care. In the long term, Aspirus said it’s planning to hear from its new staff and other stakeholders about local needs and will invest accordingly.

“We firmly believe strong local health care contributes to thriving rural communities, so this is an exciting day for our teams and our patients,” Jenny Redman-Schell, president of Aspirus Medical Group and the overseer of its clinics, said in a statement. “Our strength hinges on securing the talent, the facilities and alignment to serve every corner of our service area. Today, that has increased significantly.”

The deal looks to fall in line with a recent report on provider mergers and acquisition activity from Kaufman Hall. Here, the consulting group highlighted a trend of deals where medium and large systems were either looking for expansion opportunities that could bring local market expertise or were selling off peripheral hospitals to shore up their investments into core markets.  

The pace of providers’ deal-making is, however, starting to turn some heads. President Joe Biden recently issued a sweeping executive order that tasks the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission with taking a closer look at healthcare mergers “to ensure patients are not harmed” by increased consolidation across the provider landscape.