Hospital Ending Affiliation with Ascension

With the July 7 announcement that Ministry Door County Medical Center (MDCMC) will end its relationship with Ascension Health, President/CEO Gerald Worrick said the first question he has gotten about the change is what will the new name be?

While that has yet to be determined (Worrick thinks it might just be Door County Medical Center), Worrick said a new partnership with the Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) “will allow us to continue to grow our organization, while providing the same high level of care for which we are recognized.”

In fact, Worrick said hospital customers should not even notice that a change in affiliation has taken place.

“I don’t anticipate any real changes,” he said. “Actually, one of the big criteria that the board used as they went through their discernment process is to make sure we have a relationship that will not affect the culture of this organization. We have a really great culture. I don’t think patients will see a change at all.”


The hospital opened its doors in 1943 as Door County Memorial Hospital. In 1999 it became part of Ministry Health Care, and Ministry joined Ascension Health in 2013. Ascension is the largest Catholic and largest nonprofit health system in the nation.

MDCMC and HSHS have signed a Letter of Intent for HSHS to enter into a minority interest affiliation with MDCMC that will permit the two organizations to work as partners in the delivery of high quality, compassionate health care to the residents of Door County and northeast Wisconsin.

Worrick explained that the hospital had a change of control clause in its original agreement with Ministry that allowed the hospital to leave Ministry if they ever changed owners.

“That occurred three years ago when it became a part of Ascension,” Worrick said. “Then there was a period where we decided to see what happens for two years, see how Ascension was going. Then in October, which was the due date to inform Ministry, the board informed them they were going through the discernment process.”

Asked if there was anything that prompted the change in affiliation, Worrick said the board’s idea was to stay small with local control.

“If you look at the size and breadth of Ascension – it’s the largest nonprofit in the United States – and looking at the size and scope of us here, I think the board wanted to make sure how our community’s voice is going to be heard,” he said. “They thought maybe we should look at something smaller, a smaller system and a system very similar to what Ministry was, a regional system with a lot of rural roots to it. HSHS is very similar to what Ministry was when we joined Ministry 16 years ago. All of their hospitals are in Wisconsin or Illinois. Most of them are middle to smaller, not metropolitan areas.”

In a July 7 letter to MDCMC employees, Worrick explained, “During this past year, our board of directors explored various affiliations that would enhance our ability to take the best care of our community. After careful consideration and a rigorous discernment process, we are confident our decision to partner with HSHS will allow us to continue our mission of putting patients first in everything we do. As a Catholic-based health care system, HSHS shares our organization’s strong commitment to serving the health care needs of our entire community, especially the poor.”

“We are grateful for the partnership we have enjoyed with Ministry Health Care and Ascension. As health care in the United States continues to evolve, we feel this opportunity to now formally partner with HSHS makes the most sense for the patients and communities we are privileged to serve,” added Patrick O’Hern, MDCMC Board Chair.

HSHS has 14 hospitals and more than 200 physician clinic sites in Wisconsin and Illinois. The HSHS Eastern Wisconsin Division has four hospitals, including two in Green Bay, one in Oconto Falls and one in Sheboygan.

HSHS St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay has centers of excellence for cancer, cardiovascular, orthopedics, women’s care, digestive health, and a dedicated children’s hospital with the region’s only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center, also in Green Bay, offers a full scope of healthcare services including heart care and women’s health.

Through its partnership with Prevea Health, the HSHS Eastern Wisconsin Division also includes more than 200 physicians in more than 40 health centers that provide easy access to primary and specialty care physician services.

“We believe that formally partnering with Ministry Door County Medical Center will enable both organizations to work together to improve the health of communities across northeast Wisconsin,” said Mary Starmann-Harrison, president and CEO of Hospital Sisters Health System.

Bob Atwell, chair and CEO of Nicolet National Bank, is in his fourth year of serving on the HSHS Board of Directors.

“I’m very proud to serve on the HSHS Board and am well aware of how important this is for both Door County and the eastern Wisconsin hospitals, St. Vincent’s and St. Mary’s. It’s a great opportunity to strengthen the hospital and patient care,” Atwell said. “This is a very wise move on Door County’s part. It really localizes things. Nationally rural hospitals are being consolidated into larger systems. You have a very financially stable, well-run hospital and they wanted more control for the provision of care and to keep resources local….There’s this principle in Catholic social thought of subsidiarity, that the responsibility and decision-making authority should rest with those at the most decentralized level possible. They respect that. They believe it and they’re doing it. I feel very good about it.”

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