Ascension divests handful of Wisconsin hospitals, clinics to nonprofit Aspirus Health

Dive Brief:

  • Ascension is selling several of its hospitals and clinics in Wisconsin to nonprofit health system Aspirus Health, the two companies announced Tuesday.
  • Catholic health giant Ascension has signed an agreement to transfer ownership of seven hospitals, 21 physician clinics and an air and ground medical transport business located in north and central Wisconsin over to Aspirus. Completion of the transaction will almost double Wausau, Wisconsin-based Aspirus’ footprint. Currently, the regional player has four hospitals in Michigan and six in Wisconsin, along with more than 50 clinics.
  • Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and it still must clear regulatory and canonical conditions before closing, as Aspirus is a secular system.

Dive Insight:

Ascension is the largest nonprofit system in the U.S. with more than 2,600 sites of care, including 145 hospitals, across 19 states and the District of Columbia. Like other systems, Ascension struggled last year as the coronavirus pandemic hit, and increasingly focused on controlling costs to combat declining patient volumes.

Ascension reported a net loss of $1 billion for its 2020 fiscal year, though ended up in the black in its most recent financial filing in November, mostly due to steady expenses and an infusion of congressional relief funding.

The Aspirus deal significantly reduces Ascension’s footprint in rural Wisconsin. Ascension has winnowed down its cohort of small, rural facilities in the region over the past few years, including selling two hospitals to Marshfield Clinic Health System in August and another to Gundersen Health System in September.

Ascension SVP Bernie Sherry chalked the new divestitures up to the changing needs of its patient population in a statement Tuesday.

The deal announced Tuesday will help Aspirus expand access to local primary care and specialty services in rural areas, Aspirus CEO Matthew Heywood said. The four-decade-old system purchased another rural-area hospital, Divine Savior Healthcare in Portage, in a deal that closed in February.

The seven hospitals Ascension is selling had a combined $914 million in total patient revenues in 2019, according to data maintained by the American Hospital Directory. About a third of that total came from St. Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

They were all acquired from the former Marian Health System in 2013.