The final step in what has been months in the making took place Dec. 27, when leaders from Rice Memorial Hospital, ACMC Health and CentraCare Health signed the final agreement to establish Carris Health effective as of Jan. 1, 2018.

This agreement formalizes a partnership between the organizations and lays the foundation for new collaborative and innovative opportunities that will benefit people in west central and southwest Minnesota.

Carris Health is a subsidiary of CentraCare Health. The ultimate goal is to strengthen health care in the region through partnerships, while making sure each organization retains local control to make decisions that are best for the communities they serve.

This innovative approach will help keep patients local, create a structure for working together on behalf of patients and position the organizations for success in a health care industry that is rapidly changing. 

Leading Carris Health as co-CEOs will be Mike Schramm, CEO of Rice Memorial Hospital and Cindy Firkins Smith, MD, president and CEO of ACMC Health. Together they will oversee the formation of Carris Health, which will take place in phases throughout 2018.

The first step was establishing a board of directors that includes representation from the local communities.

Smith and Schramm will serve as ex-officio, non-voting members of the board. Additional Carris Health board members include:

• Michael May, MD, ACMC

• Douglas Allen, Rice Memorial

• Jonathan Mellema, MD, ACMC

• David Anfinson, Rice Memorial

• Kevin Unger, MD, ACMC 

• Lee Cafferty, MD, Rice Memorial

• Rick Wehseler, MD, ACMC

• Jon Saunders, Rice Memorial

• Craig Broman, CentraCare Health

• Ken Holmen, MD, CentraCare Health

“The collaboration has been tremendous,” said Schramm. “We share a commitment to our communities and recognize that we can be even stronger together.”

An integration team is developing a plan that will guide efforts throughout the year, and during that process, patients can expect the same level of services and access to care.

“We are fortunate to have high-quality health care services in our region, and through this partnership will be able to improve on an already strong network,” said Firkins Smith. “By sharing expertise and resources, we can better care for the needs of people in our communities.”

Rice Memorial, ACMC Health and CentraCare Health have a long history of working together and already share a common geography and many patients. Through Carris Health, the goal is to make rural health care less complicated.

Carris Health will make a capital investment of $32 million in Rice Memorial Hospital over the next 10 years.

Rice Memorial Hospital assets will continue to be owned by the City of Willmar. The organization’s 1,350 staff and physicians will be employees of Carris Health.

ACMC Health’s 955 employees, including 180 physicians and advanced practice providers will also be employees of Carris Health as will the 174 employees of Willmar Medical Services, a joint venture between Rice Memorial Hospital and ACMC Health.

“It has been inspiring to work together to envision the future of health care for west central and southwest Minnesota,” said Holmen, MD, president and CEO of CentraCare Health. “Together, we can improve the quality of care, the overall health of people in the region and reduce the cost of health care. The process will take time, but we have the right partners at the table to create a bright future for healthcare in the region.”

To learn more, visit www.carrishealth.com.