A proposed merger in northern Wisconsin could combine the area's largest medical group and the only hospital in Rhinelander, Wis.
Rhinelander Medical Center last week signed a letter of intent to merge with Milwaukee-based Ministry Health Care, which owns St. Mary's Hospital in Rhinelander.
A merger would combine Rhinelan-der, a 37-member physician group that operates four clinics in Wisconsin's Northwoods, with Ministry, which operates nine hospitals in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Three of those hospitals are sponsored jointly with either Wheaton (Ill.) Franciscan Services or Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic.
Ministry is the Midwest division of SSM-US Health System, a large Roman Catholic network and the umbrella group for all the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother healthcare operations.
At deadline, Ministry and medical center officials were not available for comment.
The merger, which could draw federal antitrust scrutiny, is expected to be completed by the fall. Plans call for the Rhinelander Medical Center staff to become employees of a physician division at Ministry.
It's not known whether the medical center's name will remain the same.
The medical center is next door to St. Mary's, part of the 77-bed Sacred Heart-St. Mary's Hospitals, owned by Ministry. The other half, Sacred Heart Hospital, is 25 miles away in Tomahawk, Wis., where Rhinelander Medical Center has a clinic.