CLIVE — MercyOne is being acquired by Trinity Health, one of the not-for-profit Catholic health care organizations that jointly operates the hospital system.
Trinity Health and CommonSpirit Health announced Tuesday that they had signed the agreement allowing it to acquire all the facilities and assets of MercyOne, which serves more than 3.3 million patients each year. Since 1998, the Iowa-based regional health system has been under a joint operating agreement between Trinity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, which is now CommonSpirit.
Its hospitals and other facilities in Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Oelwein won’t go through a name change because of the acquisition, a spokesperson said. President Jack Dusenbery will continue to lead MercyOne Northeast Iowa.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to support MercyOne across the state of Iowa,” Mike Slubowski, president and chief executive officer of Trinity Health, said during an online news conference Tuesday.
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“This agreement creates a fully integrated MercyOne to care for more people in a unified way,” he added in a news release.
After months of analysis, Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health and CommonSpirit of Chicago determined a sole parent is the best path forward for MercyOne and for the communities it serves. Trinity Health, whose facilities span 25 states, will bring unified strategies and operations to MercyOne’s care sites, including one set of system services.
As an example, MercyOne will transition to Trinity Health’s common platforms, including a single electronic health record, allowing patients to easily manage their care across all MercyOne services and facilities. The result is a more convenient and consistent care experience for MercyOne’s communities, according to a news release.
Bob Ritz, MercyOne’s president and chief executive officer, said during the news conference that the two organizations “worked tirelessly” on “the need to have one (information technology) system, one billing system, one accounting system” ahead of announcing the agreement.
MercyOne consists of 16 medical centers, including hospitals in Waterloo and Cedar Falls that were part of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare before 2016. There are also 27 affiliate organizations and more than 420 care sites with a range of health and wellness offerings such as provider services and urgent care. More than 20,000 people are employed by the system, 2,000 of those doctors and providers.
Currently, both organizations have a 50% ownership stake in the Northeast Iowa health care facilities, including Elkader. CommonSpirit Health owns the central Iowa facilities while Trinity Health owns those in Sioux City, Mason City, Dubuque and Clinton.
“This is something that has been discussed for years, but never really thought to be possible,” Ritz said of ending the joint operations.
He noted that MercyOne is being acquired through a member substitution transaction, which doesn’t involve purchasing the assets. Ritz said the intent of acquisition is to “strengthen the Catholic health system in Iowa,” but cost savings aren’t expected.
“This is not based on saving money or any type of, you know, return on investment, since it’s a member substitution approach,” he said. “Now, we are trying to find more people to work in health care in this state, in this organization across the country.
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“There may be minimal changes down the road, but for right now it’s really about the opportunity to be a stronger (system),” said Ritz. “I do think it will help us create a more efficient path to deliver care, but rarely does that ever really result in lower cost – particularly in the environment these days where inflation is pretty widespread.”
Slubowski added, “We’re very sensitive to the cost of health care, and I think this is an opportunity for us to gain efficiencies in the long run. But Bob’s point is clear that we’re not going into this deciding anything that would affect people. We need the people that we have to build a better, a bigger system in Iowa.”
Trinity Health and CommonSpirit will now plan for integration, complete regulatory filings and take other steps necessary to finalize the transaction. This process, expected to be completed in the summer, will be seamless for the communities MercyOne serves.