Rockford's Swedish American Health System and University of Wisconsin Health, based in Madison, Wis., have committed to merge later this year pending regulatory approval, officials of both entities announced Tuesday.
The boards of both organizations have approved a letter of intent to make Swedish American a partner in the community healthcare delivery model of UW Health, a major regional healthcare network.
Swedish American and UW Health have had a formal affiliation since 2010.
“This merger is a logical progression of our successful affiliation of the past four years,” said Dr. Bill Gorski, president and CEO of Swedish American. “The Rockford region, as well as people throughout northern Illinois, will have greater access to the breakthrough research, advanced medical specialties and community health initiatives that earn UW Health national recognition.”
That affiliation led to the development of the new Swedish American Regional Cancer Center, which opened to patients last October near I-90 and Riverside Blvd. As an affiliate, Swedish American also participates in telestroke and electronic Intensive Care Unit (e-ICU) services with UW Health.
The agreement is the latest in a string of proposed health care mergers in Rockford. A handful of similar deals in recent years either involved a pair of providers in Rockford, or one from Rockford and another from a neighboring area. Those deals either failed at the hands of regulators, or talks fell apart before the deal could advance.
Jim Ciesla is a health care economist at Northern Illinois University. He says one of the things Rockford health care networks have working against them is the softness of the local economy.
"It makes them an expensive merger partner," Ciesla said.
However, officials involved with this proposed merger say they're optimistic about the deal moving forward. They say it wouldn't hurt competition in Rockford. They also note the familiarity between the two networks.