By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD —The planned acquisition of Saint Joseph’s Hospital by Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) may delay the construction of a hospital of the future in Marshfield, but it likely will not derail it. Speaking with Hub City Times today, General Counsel for MCHS Jerard Jensen described a vision in which Saint Joseph’s Hospital is more of a bridge to the hospital of the future than a replacement.
The interim period before the deal closes
Currently Ministry and MCHS have agreed to a non-binding memorandum of understanding where MCHS will acquire Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and Ministry will assume full ownership of a diagnostic and treatment center that the two parties currently co-own in Weston.
Jensen said it will be several months before MCHS officially takes ownership of Saint Joseph’s. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“It’ll close this year, but it’ll be months from now before we actually own it (Saint Joseph’s Hospital),” Jensen said. He noted that discussions surrounding MCHS’ acquisition of Saint Joseph’s Hospital have been occurring for about the last six or seven months.
Jensen said — in the interim — both parties would work to bring the level of services and staff at Saint Joseph’s Hospital “back up.”
“What we will do is begin immediately to work on areas where we can restore services,” Jensen said. “It’s been a difficult situation, but now that there’s a fairly clear path to where Saint Joseph’s is going, we should be able to recruit people and to fill the positions and restore the services that were provided earlier.”
Jensen added that because of the size of the transaction, the U.S. Department of Justice would have to approve the deal, and because Ministry is part of a Catholic system, the Vatican has to sign off on it as well.
Hospital of the future still planned
Jensen said, even with acquiring Saint Joseph’s Hospital, a need remains for a hospital of the future in Marshfield. Jensen said it was a “very remote” possibility that MCHS would scrap building a hospital of the future all together.
“I think we’re going to defer it. We’re going to have to take account of what we have and how that can play into the future, but Saint Joseph’s is an older facility, and … what we would have to do to bring that into the future would probably be extremely expensive,” Jensen said. He added that MCHS would have to assess the cost of refurbishing Saint Joseph’s and the quality of facility that could be created through those improvements compared to the cost and quality of a brand new hospital.
Jensen did not have a timeline for when construction on a hospital of the future may begin. Prior to this latest development, groundbreaking was set for this spring, but now, Jensen acknowledged, it could be years.
“It’s highly unlikely that we will not build something new. I think this is just a matter of deferring our plans so we can coordinate those plans with what we’re acquiring here,” Jensen said. He later added, “It’s an interim solution,” regarding the acquisition of Saint Joseph’s.
Regardless of how the acquisition impacts future plans, Jensen said it will allow MCHS to stabilize care in the Marshfield community.
“What it will do is give us the opportunity immediately to restore services and preserve tertiary care in Marshfield, pending longer range plans for an improved physical plant and hospital of the future,” Jensen said.
If MCHS eventually builds a hospital of the future, Jensen said there likely would not be a need for the Saint Joseph’s facility as a hospital.
“I think if and when a new hospital is built, Saint Joseph’s will no longer function as a hospital,” Jensen said.
Saint Joseph’s current employees
Jensen said MCHS plans to take on the staff of Saint Joseph’s Hospital to run the facility once the ownership change occurs.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any major changes. We don’t have any hospital employees at Marshfield Clinic, or we have very few, and we’re going to need to operate a hospital, so we’re going to need a staff to operate the hospital, and we plan to take on the staff of Saint Joseph’s,” Jensen said. “We don’t have a hospital staff to drop in there. … Basically the plan would be to hire the Saint Joseph’s staff.”
Ministry Health Care opted to answer Hub City Times’ questions electronically and provided brief comments.
“As we work through this next phase of work to finalize a potential transfer of ownership of Saint Joseph’s Hospital, we will continue to keep our patients, employees, and the community as our top priorities,” said Chief Marketing and Communication Officer for Ascension Wisconsin Vince Gallucci.