Ascension selling spree continues

St. Louis-based Ascension continues to improve its operating performance and aims to ensure long-term sustainability for the health system on the back of a $3 billion operating loss in fiscal year 2023. 

For the nine months ending March 31, 2024, Ascension reported an operating loss of $237.8 million, a substantial improvement on the $1.8 billion loss reported in the prior-year period. Overall same facility volume increased over the comparable period in the prior year, most notably driven by total inpatient admissions, emergency visits and total surgery visits as Ascension continues to expand capacity and backfill certain volumes that have shifted outpatient. 

"We remain optimistic as the execution of Ascension's strategic initiatives, including our economic improvement plan, continue to result in favorable quarterly financial results," CFO Liz Foshage said. "The positive trend in patient volume simply means we are sustaining and improving the health of more individuals in the communities we serve. Most importantly, as demonstrated by the recent CMS Hospital Star ratings, Ascension's clinical quality scores continue to outperform national averages and further differentiate our hospitals' quality."

Part of Ascension's turnaround strategy has also revolved around strategic transactions that reorganized its portfolio. The 139-hospital system has offloaded several key assets and hospitals in the last three years, with more deals in the pipeline. 

Nine transactions to know:

1. The University of Alabama System plans to acquire Birmingham-based Ascension St. Vincent's Health System for about $450 million. UAB Health, a $6.4 billion system, aims to strengthen hospitals in the state, especially as financial hardship has caused other hospitals nationwide to close. UAB and Ascension expect the deal to be completed in the fall, pending regulatory approvals.

2. Ascension Michigan, which includes 16 hospitals, plans to sell three campuses — Ascension St. Mary's of Saginaw, Ascension St. Joseph in Tawas and Ascension St. Mary's of Standish — to Midland-based MyMichigan Health this summer. 

3. The health system hopes to cement a joint-venture partnership with Detroit-based Henry Ford Health in the third quarter, pending regulatory approvals. The deal would essentially fold Ascension Michigan's sites of care in the southeastern region of the state under its brand. Ten Ascension Michigan hospitals and all five of Henry Ford's acute care hospitals and other care facilities and assets — including Health Alliance Plan — will be included in the partnership.

4. St. Louis-based Mercy plans to acquire Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, Kan. The proposed transaction includes the hospital, its locations and related physician practices, but excludes Ascension Living Via Christi Village facilities and operations. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals. 

5. In February, Ascension sold Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital System in Binghamton, N.Y., to Sayre, Pa.-based the Guthrie Clinic, now a six-hospital system. 

6. Ascension Wisconsin sold its 50% stake in Network Health to Milwaukee-based Froedtert Health in November. The deal gave Froedtert full ownership of the health plan, a spokesperson for the system confirmed to Becker's.

7. In October, Gulf Coast Health System, another Ascension subsidiary, sold all assets and operations associated with Providence Hospital in Mobile, Ala., to the University of South Alabama Health Care Authority.

8. Ascension sold certain assets from its outreach laboratory business to Labcorp in 2022. The company now manages Ascension's hospital-based labs in 10 states: Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.  

9. In 2021, Ascension's Ministry Health Care in Milwaukee sold its membership interest in seven hospitals to Wausau, Wis.-based Aspirus Health. 

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