Bellin-DCHS deal advances

The Dickinson County Healthcare System Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved an asset purchase agreement as part of Bellin Health’s planned acquisition of DCHS. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News Photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — A public hearing will be scheduled soon on Bellin Health’s planned acquisition of Dickinson County Healthcare System after DCHS’s approval Tuesday of an asset purchase agreement.

“While a substantial amount of work remains to be completed before the deal is closed, we are hopeful that the effort will move forward,” said George Kerwin, Bellin Health president and CEO. “Both of our organizations have a commitment to providing the best health care we can for our community.”

A public hearing and county board action on the asset purchase agreement are expected to occur later this month, DCHS said in a press release. It’s anticipated that a closing date for the acquisition will be in late June or early July, officials said.

Henry Wender, county board chairman, said the hearing tentatively is set for 7 p.m. March 26. The county expects to receive more information on the purchase agreement for review next week.

“We are happy to have reached this stage in the process with Bellin, and we look forward to continuing to work together on details and areas that must be covered in order to complete the closing,” said John Schon, administrator and CEO of DCHS. “While both systems will benefit from the integration, the greatest beneficiaries will be our community.”

Bellin, a non-profit health corporation based in Green Bay, Wis., announced plans in early December to acquire financially troubled DCHS by summer.

Hospital officials have said that procedural and regulatory changes in Medicare and other insurers have cost DCHS $8 million in revenue in each of the past two years. Discounts for commercial insurers — Michigan Blue Cross/Blue Shield in particular — also are a factor.

The hospital operates as a Michigan municipal health facility corporation under Public Act 230. As such, it receives no direct county appropriations or taxpayer support and has been self-sustaining since moving to its U.S. 2 facility in 1996. DCHS has more than doubled its staff and patient utilization since then, according to Schon.

The hospital system has more than 90 active physicians and each year serves more than 200,000 patients. As of December, it employed a staff of more than 850, making it the major largest employer in the Dickinson County area.

Bellin Health Systems Inc., an integrated health care system, has more than 4,000 employees in northeast Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula and is known for its emphasis on preventive health care. It is comprised of Bellin Hospital, Bellin Psychiatric Center, 31 primary care physician clinics and several retail health clinics. It operates Bellin Health Oconto Hospital in Oconto, Wis., Bellin Fitness and Bellin College as well.

Locally, Bellin operates a health clinic on Woodward Avenue in Iron Mountain on property that once hosted the original Dickinson County Memorial Hospital, which opened in 1951.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500 ext. 26 or