WAUSAU, Wisc. (WJMN) – Two medical entities have signed a letter of intent with the intended goal of creating a health care system which will serve people in northeastern Minnesota, northern and central Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.

In a joint news release on Wednesday, St. Luke’s Duluth and Aspirus Health, based in Wausau, Wisconsin announced the letter of intent.

“We envision a future where access to excellent health care is easier and more seamless for patients. Aspirus has a history of being nimble, innovative and forward-thinking in how we deliver care for the communities we serve,” said Matthew Heywood, Aspirus Health President and CEO. “We welcome the opportunity to expand into Minnesota with St. Luke’s and look forward to learning from one another and building upon our collective strengths to benefit our teams and patients.”

The goals outlined in the news release are to advance care and expand access through things like improved funding and shared technology.

“From our founding days in 1881, St. Luke’s has remained patient-focused above all else. Joining forces with Aspirus Health enables us to expand access and better support clinical staff to reach even more patients,” said Nicholas Van Deelen, MD, St. Luke’s Co-President/CEO and Chief Medical Officer. “The like-minded missions of St. Luke’s and Aspirus are rooted in serving people — our patients and the people who care for our patients. It is with people in mind that we make this bold move to grow in a way that maintains our exceptional quality and patient experience.”

Evolving community needs require us to find new and innovative approaches to delivering care. The strength of Aspirus Health will enable St. Luke’s to accelerate investment in our communities and expand our impact faster than we can on our own,” said Eric Lohn, St. Luke’s Co-President/CEO and Chief Financial Officer. “Joining with Aspirus Health will benefit our patients, our staff and our broader network. It will bring new ideas and build a best-in-class care network that people can count on for generations to come.”

Together, the organization will operate 19 hospitals and 130 outpatient locations, with nearly 14,000 team members, including 1,300 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians.

Main headquarters will be in Wausau, while a corporate office will be maintained in Duluth.

The anticipated goal for completing the affiliation process is set for early 2024.