Midwest systems Essentia Health, Marshfield Clinic Health System investigating merger

Duluth, Minnesota-based Essentia Health and Marshfield, Wisconsin-based Marshfield Clinic Health System shared plans Wednesday to investigate a potential merger.

If joined, the integrated regional health system would comprise a network of 3,800 providers and 150 sites of care, including 25 hospitals. The entity would serve over 2 million rural and mid-urban Midwest residents.

“Through a new partnership, we can support the care models, services, research and technologies to ensure sustainable and thriving rural healthcare,” Essentia CEO David Herman, M.D., said in a announcing the organizations’ signing of a memorandum of understanding.

Nonprofit Essentia Health operates 14 hospitals, 77 clinics, six long-term care facilities and other operations in its home state of Minnesota as well as North Dakota and Wisconsin. The nonprofit integrated health system employs 15,000 people and serves patients in Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Marshfield Clinic Health System often describes itself as one of the largest rural integrated systems in the country. The nonprofit employs over 12,000 people across 11 hospitals, a health plan, research and education programs and other care locations. It is geographically adjacent to Essentia, operating throughout Wisconsin and in parts of Michigan.

“These are two of the premier health systems in the country, looking to come together to serve rural communities and beyond,” Marshfield Clinic CEO Susan Turney, M.D., said in the announcement. “When I look at Essentia, I see an organization with world-class expertise that complements our own. And I see their long, rich history of serving communities with a mission very similar to ours at Marshfield Clinic Health System.”

The health systems said the potential merger stands to increase patient access to primary and specialty care. By leaning on the strengths of each organization, the proposed entity could expand high-quality care services “at an affordable cost with an excellent patient experience,” they said.

Essentia and Marshfield Clinic noted that the signed memorandum is the first of several merger steps and that “more information will be shared as discussions progress.”

Marshfield Clinic is hot off the heels of an affiliation deal that brought Dickinson County Healthcare under its umbrella. Closed in February, the deal saw Marshfield Clinic expand its reach into northern and rural Michigan.

Last year, Essentia Health called off the purchase of 14 hospitals and other North Dakota and Minnesota clinics from CommonSpirit Health’s Catholic Health Initiatives. The Duluth organization more recently announced the addition of Mid Dakota Clinic, a four-clinic health system based in Bismarck, North Dakota.