Horizon Healthcare, Milwaukee, is joining the growing ranks of system divorcees.
The loosely affiliated network of seven hospitals said recently that it will cease operations after 11 years, because its hospitals have formed new, more integrated systems with one another.
"They're willing to break up Horizon and let it go away to form systems that are really focused on the communities they are trying to service," said Mark Knight, a consultant and Horizon's interim president and chief executive officer.
Horizon's split is another in a series of system bust-ups that have included Unity Health, St. Louis; Penn State Geisinger Health System, Harrisburg, Pa.; and UCSF Stanford Health Care, San Francisco.
"Certainly Horizon has met its purpose for being," said Bill Bazan, vice president of the Wisconsin Health and Hospital Association's metropolitan Milwaukee area. "It was simply time to acknowledge that . . . it just makes sense for their breakup."
Unwinding Horizon is expected to be completed by this summer, Knight said.
Horizon didn't own any of its hospitals and didn't integrate the hospitals' finances or management. The hospitals had collaborated on managed-care contracting and services such as occupational health, home care and hospice care. But last fall, managed-care contracting was shifted back to the hospitals, Knight said.
Sister Renee Rose, former Horizon CEO, said the hospitals worked together to divide themselves into new, smaller, financially and clinically integrated systems.
Horizon's hospitals are spread throughout the metropolitan Milwaukee area, with the farthest south being 143-bed Kenosha (Wis.) Hospital and Medical Center.
"We sorted this out together," said Rose, now interim president of Milwaukee-based Columbia-St. Mary's, a 6-year-old joint operating agreement among four Horizon hospitals: Milwaukee's 328-bed Columbia Hospital, 287-bed St. Mary's Hospital and 45-bed Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute, and 82-bed St. Mary's Hospital Ozaukee, Mequon, Wis.
Columbia-St. Mary's announced in January that it will expand its joint operating agreement and merge the four hospitals under a new parent.
Also in January, Horizon members 472-bed Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Milwaukee, and 142-bed Community Memorial Hospital, Menomonee Falls, Wis., merged to create Froedtert & Community Health.
Rose said the group decided against making Horizon a more integrated system, because the hospitals' geographic spread made clinical integration almost impossible.
The new healthcare systems will assume the joint-venture services, such as occupational health and home care, that Horizon had managed. Horizon will continue to exist as a corporate organization.