New Eau Claire hospital planned

Eau Claire could have a new hospital in two or three years that features in-patient care, state-of-the-art medical technology and an expanded ambulatory surgery center.

Marshfield Clinic Health System and Wausau-based Aspirus health system this week announced plans for the "hospital of the future" as part of a nonbinding letter of intent to collaborate. The two systems say that this is not a merger or an acquisition but a goal of working as partners.

"This is a historic moment for Marshfield Clinic Health System," said Dr. Susan Turney, Marshfield Clinic Health System's CEO. "This is not without challenges, but it's a huge opportunity to provide for our patients. We're pulling together to create our future. This was the time we needed to be bold and make decisions and reduce the cost of care."

The largest hospital in Eau Claire now is Mayo Clinic Health System, which has ?? employees.

Aspirus senior vice president of finance Sid Sczygelski said it is premature to disclose the size and anticipated cost of a hospital.


"We think in two to three years, we should have a hospital constructed," Sczygelski said. "We don't have a site in mind. We are considering various alternatives."

While Sczygelski said in all likelihood it would be new construction, he wouldn't rule out the possibility of "acquiring a co-owned" hospital in Eau Claire.

Both Turney and Sczygelski said among the goals of the hospital will be a focus on in-patient care, including briefer stays in a hospital bed. Turney said that would mean opening a skilled nursing care rehabilitation center, either as part of the hospital or at a nearby medical facility already owned by Marshfield Clinic Health System.

"It allows people to recover out of the hospital," Turney said. "We know patients sometimes need a little more recovery, beyond one day, but don't need all the services of a hospital. We know that alone will reduce the cost of care."

Turney said the footprint of a new building would take into consideration the changing technologies and storage of medical information.

Sczygelski said a new hospital would give Chippewa Valley residents "another option" for medical care.

"It's a market we strategically want to be in. It's the next logical step for our growth," Sczygelski said. "We'll be able to compete with (neighboring hospitals) in any way."

Mayo Clinic Health System President and CEO Dr. Randall Linton said that changes in the health care industry have led to this type of exploration of potential relationships.


"Strategically navigating through times of change is what Mayo Clinic successfully accomplished when creating Mayo Clinic Health System more than 20 years ago," Linton said. "In 1992, Luther Hospital and Midelfort Clinic came together with Mayo Clinic to create an integrated health care system in Eau Claire that has now grown to support patients and communities throughout northwest Wisconsin."

Mayo Clinic Health System has not been contacted by any organization about selling or co-owning and is not considering a sale or partnership, Linton added.

Two area HSHS hospitals — Sacred Heart in Eau Claire and St. Joseph's in Chippewa Falls — have not been contacted regarding a sale, according to a statement from the hospitals. "As local hospitals of Hospital Sisters Health System, sale of our hospitals is not under consideration," according to the statement.

Marshfield Clinic Health System oversees Marshfield Clinic and Lakeview Medical Center in Rice Lake, and has more than 700 physicians and 6,500 employees in more than 50 clinics, medical facilities and dental centers in central, west-central and northern Wisconsin. Aspirus, a nonprofit health system, has more than 7,000 employees, serving communities in north-central Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, including eight hospitals and 50 clinics.

In December, Marshfield Clinic Health System was asked to join a consortium of seven other health care providers around the state. The consortium, AboutHealth, comprises Aspirus as well as Aurora Health Care of Milwaukee, Bellin Health in Green Bay, Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, ProHealth Care in Waukesha, ThedaCare of Appleton and UW Health in Madison. Those seven providers created AboutHealth last August.

Organizers say AboutHealth was developed to advance clinical quality and increase sharing among the member organizations, promising lower costs to employers who agree to use the services of AboutHealth's members. As of Sept. 30, AboutHealth offered access to 44 hospitals and 5,680 physicians.


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