After more than a century of providing medical care here, Dean Health Systems is about to lose its local ownership status.

Founded in 1904 by the legendary Dr. Joseph Dean, the provider is being sold to SSM Health Care of St. Louis, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country. Pending regulatory approvals, the deal could be closed this summer.

Dean’s board approved the sale on Monday, although it has been rumored for months. Dean was also considering other suitors — including Kaiser Permanente, the California-based health care giant — but says it went with SSM because the two parties already collaborate.

SSM has owned St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison since it opened in 1912. SSM also owns 17 other hospitals in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma.

The deal would pay some 300 physician-owners for their shares in Dean, although financial details were not released. The doctors would then become employees of SSM.

Dean officials on Tuesday said patients will see few immediate changes. They can keep the same doctor and no changes are planned at any of the 60 clinics operated in the region by Dean Health System.

“For our patients, there would be very few changes, with the potential for many advantages as we strive, during this critical time, to shift the focus of care delivery to higher quality at a greater value,” said Craig Samitt, president and CEO of Dean Health System in a statement.

But the move could certainly impact Dean’s 3,850 employees and SSM’s 4,034 employees in Wisconsin. Samitt would not rule out layoffs and said company leaders will be looking at ways to be more efficient going forward.

Dean went through a series of layoffs in 2009, eliminating about 90 positions at that time.

Interestingly, the sale to SSM comes as another major St. Louis health care company has made inroads in Wisconsin. Earlier this month, Ministry Health Care of Milwaukee was sold to Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health system in the U.S.

Dean and St. Mary’s have collaborated in Madison for decades, with SSM and Dean already jointly owning Dean Health Plan insurance, Wisconsin Integrated Information Technology and Telemedicine Systems (WIITTS); and Navitus Health Solutions.

The sale includes all Dean units, including Davis Duehr Dean eye clinics, Dean Pharmacy, WIITTS and Navitus.

Dean and SSM said the merger will allow them to better navigate changes in the way Medicare payments are delivered going forward and other changes in the nation’s health care system.

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(5) comments


Sometimes....yes, sometimes....they are one in the same. Don't generalize.

A health care professional with loads of experience in lots of different areas - also a practicing Catholic Christian.


Fart, I was with your argument right up to the end. At least I would have debated it... Why would we allow employers to choose? Because it's called freedom. If someone, anyone, wants to provide a service, any service, and it doesn't provide everything you want, you can go somewhere else. When people are forced into something they don't want, that's when rebellion starts.


Hey am I wrong here Richard? Didn't you post this on another thread and didn't it mysteriously disappear?

I think you raise some pretty valid points here. I'm curious here. Do catholic hospitals pay the same taxes other privately held hospitals pay? I get that catholic hospitals are a traditional offshoot of the ministry, but haven't these hospitals become big business?

With all the lawsuits surrounding the ACA and birth control, etc. should we as a society advocate allowing tax favored entities with a de facto competitive advantage to grow if they are going to advocate positions that run counter to good public policy?

I recognize my wording might be inartful, but I hope you all get the point. If access to birth control is good public policy and if people should be allowed to make their own end of life decisions without interference, why would we want organizations opposed to those goals to crowd out other medical providers? And if the law doesn't allow employers to deny access to certain medical procedures or medications, why would we allow employers to select an insurance provider that won't provide those procedures?


The WSJ website had a similar story. I posted a similar question there. It did not survive.


Again I inquire about this new merged hospital: Will the final arbiter of decisions on matters of pregnancy, birth control, and end of life be sound medical judgment or Catholic dogma?

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