Chippewa Valley Health Cooperative to build new hospital

Chippewa Valley Health Cooperative plans to build a new community hospital and says that it is working to fast track additional services to fill health care gaps created by the HSHS/Prevea exit from western Wisconsin.

The cooperative’s board of organizers is evaluating several locations for the new community hospital campus in Eau Claire and Chippewa counties and seeks to confirm its location by August.

HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls closed March 22. In addition, the L.E. Phillips-Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls closed earlier this year and multiple Prevea Health clinics have shuttered across the region. This has left a notable gap in local hospital care and other health care access.

St. Joseph’s Hospital

HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls. The hospital closed for good on March 22.

Audrey Korte

The new independent community hospital will have 60-70 beds with an emergency room, will be a 501c3 nonprofit organization and will be governed and managed by a local board of directors who are elected by local community members of the cooperative.

“Community-based, the cooperative’s new hospital will be cost-effective for local employers, will be open to all qualified physicians in the region and will accept all government payors, including Medicare and Medicaid,” a cooperative press release says. “The cooperative is exploring the feasibility of a wide range of services to be a part of the new hospital, including cancer care, cardiology, labor and delivery, surgery, radiology, lab and behavioral health.”

The cooperative was founded Feb. 29 as an independently governed, locally rooted organization with the goal of making high-quality health care accessible and affordable in the Chippewa Valley.

“The cooperative has created the organization structures and developed an operational plan to build an independent community hospital with an emergency department as well as other critical health care services the region needs to help the community thrive,” the press release says.

The cooperative reports that it has the commitment from the over 125 independent physicians of the OakLeaf Medical Network’s 27 clinics, which collectively have more than 380 providers, to serve as the medical staff for the hospital. This will allow the new hospital to provide high-quality health care services without the challenges of recruiting new physicians to the area.

“A new modern hospital building is half the equation we need to provide the high-quality health care the community needs,” said Mike Sanders, managing partner of 1100 Partners and lead cooperative hospital and health care advisor. “We’re in the extraordinary position of already having the excellent physicians we will need to provide great care for our patients already in place.”

Robert Krause, chair of the Chippewa Valley Health Cooperative Board of Organizers, said it is “crystal clear that the Chippewa Valley needs a nonprofit independent hospital governed by people from the local area to provide additional critical health care services, hospital beds and emergency room access to our community.”

Krause said locals “must have a modern, innovative hospital accountable to the people of the Chippewa Valley, not management teams outside of the region, to make a lasting, positive impact on our community’s health and well-being for generations to come.”

Robert Krause


Local architect River Valley Architects is working with the cooperative and has already provided initial concept plans for the hospital.

In addition to planning to build a new community hospital, the Chippewa Valley Health Cooperative has fast tracked planning for additional critical services, including establishing freestanding cancer and cardiology centers.

“While we build the new hospital, the cooperative will also establish other health care services to address our community’s needs,” Krause said.

Need for additional nonprofit hospital

According to data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center, before HSHS closed Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls, these two hospitals combined provided 42% of the inpatient hospital stays, averaging about 125 patients daily.

In addition, the pair of HSHS hospitals covered 32% of the emergency room visits — equating to about 22,000 ER visits annually — and managed 35% of the newborn deliveries in the region.

Sacred Heart

HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital on March 22

Audrey Korte

“The overwhelming majority of patients at Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s were patients of the independent physicians in the Chippewa Valley, as well as patients referred from rural access hospitals and clinics and other independent physicians throughout northwestern Wisconsin,” the release says.

While Mayo Clinic Health System Eau Claire and Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire have made efforts to increase their overall capacity, neither hospital is able to absorb the demonstrated need for critical health care services in the region.

“It’s been less than two months since Sacred Heart closed its emergency department, and the other ERs in the area are overwhelmed, and many people are traveling far out of the area to get the critical care they need,” said Mike Sanders, lead cooperative hospital and health care advisor. “It’s clear that the Chippewa Valley requires an additional ER and hospital capacity for the people in the region to receive the care they need.”

Mike Sanders


While the need for additional ER capacity has been talked about widely since HSHS closed its doors, the needs for more inpatient hospital beds, labor and delivery beds, an additional cancer center, cardiac services and a critical care unit are equally critical for the region.

“The Chippewa Valley grew past the capacity of the health care facilities we had before HSHS closed,” said Krause. “Building new, independent facilities for critical health services is important for the vitality of the region.”

Independent community hospitals

Community hospitals serving the full range of patients in their communities are doing well across Wisconsin and nationally. There are approximately 1,500 independent hospitals in the United States, the cooperative reports.

“Well-run community hospitals are built to serve the needs of their region and partner with qualified physicians to provide amazing care while operating sustainably,” said Sanders. “We are doing long-term planning for exceptional facilities and services that reflect current and projected needs in our growing region.”

Community members in the 15-county Chippewa Valley region and physicians licensed to practice medicine in Wisconsin will be able join the cooperative for a one-time fee of $25 and $100, respectively, in June.

The Chippewa Valley Health Cooperative is an independently governed, locally rooted organization “committed to making high-quality health care accessible and affordable for the residents of the 15 counties in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley region,” the release says.


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