by Sarah Squires
Winona Health and Winona Clinic have officially merged, coming together in 2008 as a not-for-profit single entity aimed at making a healthy Winona more efficient, competitive and easier in the health care industry.
The two boards began discussing the merger in August, and the announcement was made final January 1. While patients of any of the clinics "” including those in Winona, Lewiston and Rushford "” won't likely see any significant changes in their care soon, efficiencies and improvements are expected to bloom behind the scenes.
Rachelle Schultz, Winona Health president, said that the merger will mark the birth of a new, stronger health care organization in Winona, opening doors for expanded services and care options.
One of the things that patients will likely see as a result of the merger, said Winona Health Board Chair Gary Evans, is more leverage in recruiting doctors. In the past both Winona Health and Winona Clinic have gone through the recruitment process for physicians separately. "I think [with the merger] prospective physicians for the community will find that desirable," said Evans.
And, with added physicians and services, the new Winona Health/Winona Clinic will likely, over time, have more to offer patients. "It is our hope to offer a much broader array of services over time, certainly," said Evans, "and a greater ease of moving through what now is a single system, as opposed to what used to be two."
The two entities already share electronic medical records, but efficiencies will likely be created with billing and other in-house paperwork. But Evans said that efficiencies don't mean that there will be big staffing cuts. "We made a commitment to employ all the personnel at [the clinics] and we'll be honoring that commitment," he said.
For now, patients can continue to visit the same clinics and doctors they did before the merger, and the Winona Clinic phone numbers will remain the same. To find out more about the merger or find answers to frequently asked questions, visit winonahealth.org and click on the Merger icon near the bottom of the page.