By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — Representatives from Marshfield Clinic said that they plan to have an agreement finalized for the purchase of Saint Joseph’s Hospital from Ministry Health Care by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
The statement was made by Ned Wolf, chief administrative officer (CAO) for the hospital during the acquisition, and Melissa Breen, Marshfield Clinic Health System director of community engagement, as they updated the Marshfield Common Council during the Jan. 10 meeting.
Wolf will take over as CAO once the sale of the hospital facility is complete. Wolf led the Lakeview Medical Center, Rice Lake, during its acquisition by Marshfield Clinic Health System and accepted the position with the Marshfield hospital in September 2016.
“I see some parallels in (the Lakeview sale) and what we are going through now in terms of bringing St. Joe’s under our organization,” explained Wolf. “The process took a great deal of time. We were talking, then negotiating, then working out the legal arrangements for more than three years in Rice Lake.
“Once we announced our intent, it was especially hard on our staff. When you hear that something has happened — our organization is changing ownership — the questions start coming out, … and we can’t give any answers until the deal is done, until the papers are signed and sealed, so the speculation runs wild.
“We are at this very tough time right now in our negotiations and getting to the finish line with the acquisition of the hospital. Until the papers are signed, we cannot answer all of the questions that are getting asked.”
Wolf dismissed rumors that negotiations were falling out between Marshfield Clinic and Ministry Health Care.
“We are going to get to an agreement,” stated Wolf.
Wolf plans for a smooth transition during the sale with uninterrupted services.
“We’ve been told the Spirit ground services will likely leave the area once the sale of the hospital takes place,” explained Wolf. “That service provides intercept services for surrounding ambulance services, receiving those patients and bringing them into the hospital, so we are working now, and we will continue that service. We will have intercept services.”
Wolf added that there was a memorandum of understanding in place to assure that services will continue until the transition is complete. While some services, such as Spirit ground, may be separate from the hospital, they will be replaced by other providers.
The House of the Dove building will become part of the sale transition, and Marshfield Clinic will contract with Ministry Health Care for the hospice services it provides.
The Hope Lodge and Ronald McDonald House are operated independently and will not become part of the sale.
The Marshfield Clinic is currently in negotiations with the firm that operates Bright Horizons Child Care Center to continue its services.
Wolf said that he was unclear on the status of Children’s Miracle Network and the clinic’s ability to retain the program, but said he was hopeful for a smooth transition.
“I am so enthused about having this opportunity to lead the hospital, and we see that it’s a chance to enhance the services that we are having to grow the hospital and to restore it to the reputation that it once had and still has, but, as you know, numbers have dropped in terms of staffing,” said Wolf.
“So we want to develop the hospital and bring it back to being a premiere tertiary care service and hospital in the state of Wisconsin. That’s what it has been, and that is our goal. We see it as part of our vision of providing and serving patients for generations to come, so it is going to become an integral part of us as our system fulfills that vision,” he added.