Wisconsin-based Bellin and Gundersen Health Systems will merge

Photo: John Fedele/Getty Images

Bellin Health and Gundersen Health System, both based in Wisconsin, announced plans to combine operations effective Dec. 1.

It’s a merger of equals, the health systems said, being done to enhance local medical care and the patient experience in their respective communities.

Belin and Gundersen have been in discussions and announced on June 1 that they are discussing a planned merger. They expect to close on November 30th and begin operations on December 1st.


Partnerships and mergers are methods health systems are using to gain financial strength and stability and make way for strategic innovation as hospitals face labor shortages, inflation, rising costs and other pressures.

Bellin and Gundersen retain their respective headquarters in Green Bay and La Crosse, and said they will have a balanced leadership structure that places each of the top two positions — CEO and chairman of the board — in different regions to ensure shared ownership of decisions and equal representation.

Dr. Scott Rathgaber, the current CEO of Gundersen, is the future CEO of the combined entities.

Bellin’s current CEO, Chris Walski, will serve as executive vice president of the system and regional president of the Bellin region.

Heather Shimmers, Gundersen’s current chief nursing officer and chief operating officer, will serve as regional president of the Gundersen region. In addition, John Dykema, current chairman of Bellin Health’s board of directors, will chair the newly created board, based in Northeast Wisconsin.


Representatives from Bellin and Gundersen have been meeting for the past several months to plan the integration of the two systems. Over time, the systems said they intend to provide patients with access to more resources and a broader network, including top-tier clinical services, shared provider expertise, cutting-edge technology and digital health tools that enable for virtual care in homes and workplaces.

Bellin Health is an integrated health care delivery system based in Green Bay, Wisconsin that has Bellin Hospital, Bellin Psychiatric Center, 29 Bellin Health primary care and specialty physician clinics and retail health clinics known as Bellin Health FastCare. Bellin operates Bellin Health Oconto Hospital, a critical care hospital in Oconto, Wisconsin, Bellin Fitness, Bellin Health Home Care Equipment and Bellin College.

Gundersen Health System is a physician-led, not-for-profit integrated health network headquartered in La Crosse, Wisconsin that serves 22 counties in western Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa.


“Our health systems successfully fulfill our individual missions, but we know we will thrive and best serve our patients and communities by finding partners with shared missions and strategic visions,” Rathgaber said. . “This merger brings transformative opportunities to expand our patient-centered care and community-focused work. Together, we can invest resources wisely and efficiently to improve health and well-being in our communities, especially for marginalized individuals and more generally for everyone we care about.”

“The most important message we want to share with everyone is this: The people you know and the care and locations you trust don’t change. The merger will allow Belin and Gundersen to better serve our patients and communities, preserving and enhancing a legacy of local, personalized care that will endure for decades to come,” Voleske said. “We have found a true partner in Gundersen and know we will be stronger together.”

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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