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Beaver Dam Community Hospital and Marshfield Clinic Health System announced on Tuesday that the two organizations have taken the first steps toward an affiliation.

Beaver Dam Community Hospital will become part of the Marshfield system. BDCH will not remain an independent entity because it will be part of the Marshfield system. Kirsh and BDCH President and CEO Kim Miller said the main goal is to expand local services so patients don’t have to travel elsewhere in the state for them.

One way of doing that would be to have specialists employed with Marshfield travel to the Beaver Dam area.

Miller said in an interview that the move will bring more value, innovative technology and expertise to the community. She said she doesn’t expect any changes with jobs at the hospital.

The two organizations signed a letter of intent to begin a due diligence period to finalize terms of the affiliation by the end of 2018. Specific possibilities for expansion and collaboration will be identified during this period.

A press release issued Tuesday morning said “the two organizations aren’t releasing the specific terms of the affiliation.”

The affiliation was announced to employees between 10:30 and 11 a.m. on Tuesday and posted to the Beaver Dam Community Hospital website at 11 a.m.

Beaver Dam Community Hospital is operated by a local board of directors and Miller has been president and CEO since 2006. In addition to the hospital in Beaver Dam, there are clinics in Beaver Dam, Columbus, Juneau, Horicon and Waupun.

“Access to high-quality health care close to where our patients live and work is a top priority,” Miller said in the release. “This affiliation will enable us to build on our strengths, especially during these changing times in health care, and increase access for our rural communities to enhanced state-of-the-art and high-quality services.”

Marshfield Clinic Health System, based in Marshfield in Wood County, operates mainly in the northern part of the state. It runs clinics, medical centers, a children’s hospital and a research institute. The $2.2 billion enterprise has 9,000 employees and 1,200 care providers.

Dr. Susan Turney, the CEO of Marshfield, said that her organization is always looking for opportunities for growth to serve patients.

“We sat down and realized the opportunity really existed for two organizations that have a very similar vision and a very similar set of values,” she said in an interview.

She said the arrangement will be mutually beneficial and could include working with Beaver Dam physicians and the BDCH network of residential and hospice care.

“We are anxious to start the process of due diligence,” Turney said.

Systems across the country are looking to partner with each other as health care changes dramatically.

“This is an opportunity for two well-respected organizations to come together and create a regional destination for high-quality health care services in Dodge County,” Turney said in the release. “Marshfield Clinic Health System has a long history of providing world-class, local care to rural communities, and we are excited to build on that legacy in Beaver Dam.”

Kirsh, also the chair of Kirsh Foundry, said he is really excited for the change and its goal of keeping people near where they live and work for medical care.

Several hospitals in the region have been acquired in recent years.

In January, SSM Health, which owns St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Dean Clinic and hospitals in Baraboo and Janesville, acquired Monroe Clinic and Agnesian HealthCare, which includes the hospitals in Fond du Lac, Ripon and Waupun.

In 2015, the Watertown Regional Medical Center formed a joint venture with LifePoint Hospitals Inc., which operates more than 60 hospitals in 21 states. Lifepoint has a majority interest in the Watertown Regional Medical Center.

This story was updated to clarify that Beaver Dam Community Hospital will be absorbed into the Marshfield system.