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Aspirus shifting U.P. structure

December 1, 2012
By Kurt Hauglie ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

LAURIUM - The management structure of the Aspirus hospitals in the Upper Peninsula is changing, and officials with the health system are certain it will make it more efficient and responsive.

Chuck Nelson, who was CEO of Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium and is now Aspirus Regional CEO, said the new structure is a partnership with Aspirus Keweenaw, Aspirus Ontonagon, Aspirus Grand View in Ironwood and Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice in Calumet, which is a partner of Aspirus Keweenaw.

"This model is unique for health care, where you have cooperation and collaboration between organizations in different locations that are both a partner to the system or owned by the system," he said. "Only Aspirus has the culture to make this possible."

The change has already been put into place, Nelson said.

In 2007, Nelson said Aspirus, Inc. in Wausau, Wis., bought the hospital in Ontonagon. In 2008, it partnered with Keweenaw Memorial Hospital, and in 2010, it partnered with Grand View Hospital.

The management of all three hospitals agreed to the new change in management structure, Nelson said.

"There isn't any forced partnership here,"?he said. "Everyone sees the fantastic opportunity we have to do even more for the U.P."

Nelson said the change will not result in reductions in management personnel at the various units, except through attrition.

With himself as regional CEO, Nelson said the change will mean the CEOs at the other hospitals will become chief operating officers.

He expects there will actually be some increases in personnel at various levels because of the change, Nelson said.

The vision is that the change in structure will allow the three health care facilities to take advantage of the specialists at the various sites as they travel between the sites to provide care, Nelson said.

"There's going to be more integrated and collaborative senior leadership," he said. "It will make everything we do across the U.P. more effective."

Local communities will benefit from having more physicians and specialists available to serve them, Nelson said.

"(The new system) is a hybrid that puts the best talent we have in position to help every location in the Upper Peninsula," Nelson said.

Currently, Nelson said there are 1,100 employees at the three health systems with $94 million in salaries and operations. There is $28 million in capital improvements planned over the next three years, also.

There are several clinics supported by the three hospitals, and Nelson said there is no intention to reduce the number of employees at those sites. However, it's expected the physicians and specialists will visit the clinics, reducing the need for patients to travel to get care.

In a written statement about the change in management structure, Rick Nevers, Aspirus, Inc. vice president of planning and marketing and chief operating officer of U.P. operations, wrote "The selection of Chuck (Nelson) as regional CEO confirms the Aspirus commitment to excellence in the Upper Peninsula. Chuck brings strong experience, energy and leadership skills to all of the Upper Peninsula Aspirus organizations."

Nelson said the changes happening in the Upper Peninsula within the Aspirus will make a regional system, which will be more responsive to the needs of health care customers.

"This is a great development," he said. "There's a lot to be gained and very little to be lost."



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