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Divine Savior Healthcare in Portage is being acquired by Aspirus, a health care system based in Wausau.

Divine Savior Healthcare with the Sisters of Divine Savior have signed a letter of intent to affiliate with Aspirus and will enter a period of due diligence to negotiate terms. The merger could be finalized by Dec. 30.

While working through the process, the systems will seek approval from the Catholic Church, as Divine Savior was founded by the Sisters of Divine Savior, a Catholic organization.

“We’ll look at a lot of things and learn about each other,” said Divine Savior Healthcare CEO and President Michael Decker. “There is a chance we could get it done quicker, but our goal is to get it done by year end.”

For Divine Savior, partnering with Aspirus is an opportunity to expand as well as to provide more patient resources for Portage and Columbia County residents, Decker said.

“The emphasis here is to grow and expand locally. Making sure we have the right services for those who live in our region,” said Decker. “We really feel like the partnership will really build on our foundation, so we can continue to grow and evolve. The services we can provide will be enhanced.”

Aspirus has more than 7,500 employees, with four hospitals in Wisconsin, four hospitals in Upper Michigan, 50 clinics, home health, a health plan and other services. Divine Savior has 940 employees in addition to its clinics, skilled-nursing and assisted-living facility, home health and other services.

“We’re really excited to be with someone who understands Wisconsin, and really understands rural health care,” said Decker. “They want to do everything they can to make sure people that live in rural Wisconsin get a chance to get great health care locally.”

There are no current plans to reduce staff at Divine Savior’s Portage campus or throughout the Aspirus system, according to Aspirus CEO and President Mathew Heywood.

“Divine Savior Healthcare is an excellent community health system, with a broad range of strong access points providing high-quality care,” Heywood said. “We want to build on that.”

“Over time, we hope patients in the Portage area will simply notice that their local health provider has grown and advanced to meet even more of their needs with excellence and compassion,” said Heywood.

UW-Health is expanding its Med Flight helicopter services with a new base at Divine Savior to better provide emergency response to rural central Wisconsin. Med Flight operations are expected to continue through the merger of both hospitals and is expected to be fully functioning in August.

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

In January 2018, 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 March, Marshfield Clinic Health System acquired Beaver Dam Community Hospital.

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