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Wisconsin health systems integrate to form Ascension Wisconsin, seeks new leadership

Ascension Wisconsin will adopt new model that includes a Northern, Southern region and will install new presidents for both, system says.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Four well-known Wisconsin healthcare organizations, Affinity Health System, Columbia St. Mary's, Ministry Health Care and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, will integrate and form Ascension Wisconsin, the systems announced this week. The new system will be part of parent company Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the United States and the world's largest Catholic health system.

Sweeping changes in structure and leadership will accompany the transition. In the next 90 to 120 days, the organization will adopt a new model that includes a Northern Region and a Southern Region, each led by a separate president. Recruitment efforts for both positions are underway, Ascension said in a statement.

[Also: Ascension Health gives Accretive sole revenue cycle contract]

With the integration, Ascension Wisconsin will include with 27 hospitals and hundreds of sites of care, and employ more than 24,000 associates and nearly 1,000 medical group physicians. In fiscal year 2015, the health systems that now comprise Ascension Wisconsin provided $300 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty.

The company also said current Ministry Health Care President Daniel E. Neufelder has elected not to pursue the new position opening up of President of the Northern Region. Neufelder joined the organization 10 years ago as president and CEO of Affinity Health System and then moved to Ministry Health Care when it acquired Affinity in 2012. He became president and CEO of in December 2014.

"We were sorry to learn of Dan's decision not to continue with the organization, as Dan has been a key member of the leadership team for Affinity, Ministry and Ascension for many years, but we respect his decision to begin a new phase in his life," said Bernie Sherry, senior vice president of Ascension Health/Wisconsin Ministry Market Executive.

[Also: Ascension to buy 4 Tennessee hospitals out from joint venture]

Neufelder will stay on in his current role until the new Northern Region president is hired and brought up to speed. After leaving Ascension, Neufelder plans on spending more time with his family, doing charity and healthcare consulting work.

"During the last 10 years it has been an honor to work with the physicians, clinicians, associates and volunteers of Affinity, Ministry and Ascension," Neufelder said. "I am very proud of the accomplishments we have made to better serve our patients, to make healthcare affordable, and to create a better work environment for our associates and physicians."

In fiscal year 2015, Ascension contributed almost $2 billion in care to people living in poverty as well as other community benefit programs. The organization is comprised of 160,000 associates and 36,000 aligned providers with 142 hospitals and other facilities in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn