By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) Chief Clinical Strategy Officer Dr. Narayana Murali said Friday that plans to build a new hospital in Eau Claire would not have a significant impact on the Marshfield community or MCHS’ future in Marshfield.
“This (Eau Claire) is an important center. I don’t see it impacting (Marshfield). In fact if anything I see this whole piece integrating us across service lines, across our wider geography,” Murali said.
Murali said that the previously announced deal for Marshfield Clinic to buy Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield was progressing and could be complete by the fall of 2016 but could take longer than that. In March General Counsel for MCHS Jerard Jensen said there are still plans to build a hospital of the future in Marshfield despite the pending acquisition of Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital. The Vatican, Department of Justice, and Federal Trade Commission still have to approve the acquisition.
Murali described the current phase of discussions between MCHS and Ministry as a “due diligence” period.
“We are actually, actively moving in the right direction. We are moving with some speed,” Murali said. “We would like to have this happen yesterday, but it’s taking it’s time.”
Murali said that while the deal is still being worked out, the interim period has seen “improvements in the restoration of services” at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
Murali says Eau Claire hospital critical to lowering cost of care
MCHS has had a presence in Eau Claire for about 25 years. Murali noted that MCHS has about 140 physicians in the Chippewa Valley, which are supported by about 1,100 staff. The Eau Claire hospital will be the third hospital that MCHS either owns or co-owns throughout its system, joining facilities in Rice Lake and Park Falls, Murali said.
Murali did not have estimates for the size and cost of the Eau Claire Hospital but did say the planned cancer center, which will be attached to the new hospital, would be about 36,000 square feet. He noted that the planned Eau Claire hospital would be smaller than Ministry Saint Joseph’s.
While Murali would not specify the number of jobs that the Eau Claire Hospital may add, he said, “There’s going to be a lot of jobs. It’s a substantial growth in economic activity for the Chippewa Valley.”
The cancer center in Eau Claire “is tentatively set to open in fall of 2017 with the hospital opening expected the following year,” said a Friday press release from MCHS.
The move to build a hospital in Eau Claire was, Murali said, essential to lowering the cost of care for patients.
“It’s a critical move for the (Eau Claire) community more than anything else,” Murali said. “If you look at the Wisconsin hospital data, you will notice that Eau Claire hospitals are among the most expensive hospitals not just in Wisconsin.”
Murali said that Affordable Care Act products are 116 percent more expensive in the Chippewa Valley than the rest of the state.
“For us, lowering the cost was extremely important,” Murali said. “This is all about caring for the residents of Chippewa Valley.”
Building a new hospital in Eau Claire and presumably taking over Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital was not something Murali was concerned about in terms of the broadening the scope of services and facilities MCHS will have to manage.
“We’ve been here for 100 years. We’re looking at charting our course for the next 100 years,” Murali said.