A decade ago, Ripon Medical Center found itself in financial trouble. A merger with Agnesian Healthcare in June 2011 abated those concerns.

   At the time, the hospital’s board described itself as negotiating “from a point of strength” during the merger, but other comments suggested otherwise.

   “We’ve seen a lot of small-town hospitals have to close,” said Joan Karsten, who was operating as an interim CEO of the hospital at that time. “We just felt this was the best way for our patients to get the best health care close to home.”

   Any sign of relief breathed at the hospital, though, may not have lasted long.

   According to a report reviewing the past five years of financial records available, Ripon Medical Center not only has struggled at times but been among the worst performing hospitals financially in Wisconsin during that period.

   Does that mean Ripon’s hospital is destined for closure after all?

   No, argued Shelly Haberman, public relations supervisor for Agnesian HealthCare, a member of SSM Health.

   Rather, she suggested that the hospital was financially strong in 2018.

   “When Agnesian HealthCare first made a commitment to partner with Ripon Medical Center, it was done with the intentions of opening a new, state-of-the-art facility and providing quality health-care services at a local level. That commitment remains unchanged, especially as Agnesian HealthCare is now a member of SSM Health,” she said. “Ripon Medical Center, as a critical access hospital, is still very much a part of SSM Health’s strategic plan to ensure that health and wellness needs continue to be met as locally as possible.

   “Ripon Medical Center continues to evaluate strategies to grow and expand based on community needs. We have been, and remain, a committed local partner.”

Read the full story, which details national, regional and local factors involved in health care, in the Oct. 3, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.