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Bellin Health and Gundersen Health System, both headquartered in Wisconsin, have announced plans to combine operations starting on December 1.
This is a merger of equals, the health systems said, which is being done to strengthen local medical care and patient experience in their respective communities.
Bellin and Gundersen have been in discussions and announced on June 1 that they were discussing a planned merger. They anticipate closing on November 30 and beginning operations Dec. 1.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Partnerships and mergers are methods health systems have been using to gain financial strength and stability and to make way for strategic innovation as hospitals face labor shortages, inflation, rising expenses and other pressures.
Bellin and Gundersen are keeping their respective headquarters in Green Bay and La Crosse, and said they would have a balanced leadership structure that places each of the two top positions — CEO and board chair — in different regions to ensure shared decision-making and equal representation.
Dr. Scott Rathgaber, current Gundersen CEO is the incoming CEO of the merged organizations.
Current Bellin CEO, Chris Woleske, will serve as System Executive Vice President and Regional President of the Bellin Region.
Heather Schimmers, current Gundersen Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Operating Officer, will serve as Regional President of the Gundersen Region. In addition, John Dykema, current chair of the Bellin Health Board of Directors, will be the chair of the newly created Board, residing in Northeast Wisconsin.
THE LARGER TREND
Representatives from Bellin and Gundersen have been meeting over the past several months to plan for the integration of the two systems. Over time, the systems said they intend to provide patients access to more resources and a broader network, including top-tier clinical services, shared provider expertise, state-of-the-art technology and digital healthcare tools that bring virtual care options into homes and workplaces.
Bellin Health is an integrated healthcare delivery system based in Green Bay, Wisconsin that has Bellin Hospital, Bellin Psychiatric Center, 29 Bellin Health primary and specialty care physician clinics and retail health clinics known as Bellin Health FastCare. Bellin operates Bellin Health Oconto Hospital, a critical care access hospital in Oconto, Wis., Bellin Fitness, Bellin Health Home Care Equipment and Bellin College.
Gundersen Health System is a physician-led, not-for-profit, integrated healthcare network headquartered in La Crosse, Wisconsin that serves 22 counties in western Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, and northeast Iowa.
ON THE RECORD
“Our health systems have been successfully fulfilling our individual missions, but we know we will thrive and best serve our patients and communities by finding partners with shared missions and strategic visions,” Rathgaber said. . “This merger brings transformative opportunities to expand our patient-centered care and community-minded work. Together, we can invest resources wisely and efficiently to improve health and well-being in our communities, especially for marginalized individuals and broadly for everyone in our care.”
“The most important message we want to share with everyone is this: The people you know and the care and locations you trust are not changing. Coming together will allow Bellin and Gundersen to better serve our patients and communities, preserving and enhancing a legacy of local, personalized care that will endure for decades to come,” Woleske said. “We have found a true partner in Gundersen, and we know we will be stronger together.”
Email the writer: SMorse@himss.org
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