Ascension Health creates a holding company structure to increase flexibility, accountability

January 15, 2012

ST. LOUIS — Ascension Health has created a new holding company to organize and anchor its Catholic health care services and businesses in a health care economy undergoing seismic shifts.

The nonprofit holding company, Ascension Health Alliance, was launched Jan. 1 with Anthony R. Tersigni as its president and chief executive. Ascension Health Ministries, a public juridic person, is the sponsor of the holding company. Eight senior leaders of Ascension Health join Tersigni in the newly formed Office of the President at Ascension Health Alliance. The new holding company is based in St. Louis, as is Ascension Health. Some members of the Ascension Health Alliance board of directors are former trustees of Ascension Health. Ascension Health's board of trustees remains intact.

Robert J. Henkel succeeds Tersigni as president and chief executive of Ascension Health, the nation's largest Catholic and nonprofit health system. He also is an executive vice president of Ascension Health Alliance. Henkel has been Ascension Health's president of health care operations and chief operating officer since 2004. As Catholic Health World went to press, he had yet to announce his new leadership team.

Tersigni said in a release announcing the reorganization that the overarching goal of strengthening Catholic health care remains unchanged by the restructuring.

"We recognize that health care has changed dramatically since Ascension Health was formed 12 years ago, Tersigni said. "That rapid change is continuing, and in order to carry out our mission to serve all with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable — as well as meet our long-term goals to lead the transformation of health care — we needed to structure our organization to operate effectively in a changing environment. The new structure will increase clarity, focus and accountability.

The holding company contains Ascension Health and Ascension Health Care Network, a for-profit joint venture with the private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners. With Ascension Health as its managing partner, Ascension Health Care Network was launched in February to acquire equity-starved Catholic hospitals and health systems and other entities along the full continuum of care and preserve their Catholic identities. It has yet to announce its first planned purchase.

The restructuring moves several organizations from Ascension Health into the holding company, with the stated intent of providing greater independence and focus. These include TriMedx, a medical engineering company; Ascension Health Ventures, a strategic health care venture fund; and Catholic Healthcare Investment Management Co., which manages investments and assets for Ascension Health, its affiliates and partners. In its announcement, Ascension Health Alliance said these companies will continue to serve Ascension Health and they have the potential to offer expanded services to others. An Ascension Health spokesperson said those services may be provided to other-than-Catholic businesses, but in all cases, they will be provided in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

Tersigni said Ascension Health Alliance will form new subsidiaries. As envisioned, the holding company's executives will oversee the incubation of ideas and approaches to transforming the health care delivery system and care continuum. "Our goal is to deliver person-centered care with a consistent exceptional experience, said Tersigni.

Leadership team

The Ascension Health veterans now heading Ascension Health Alliance include:

  • Sr. Bernice Coreil, DC, as senior executive advisor to the president. She has had a similar role at Ascension Health since its founding in 1999.
  • John D. Doyle as executive vice president. He is also president and chief executive of AH Holdings, a subsidiary moved from Ascension Health to Ascension Health Alliance that includes health care technology companies TriMedx and Axess Ultrasound. He was Ascension Health's chief strategy officer and its general manager for transformational development.
  • Susan Huber as vice president, governance and sponsor relations. She held a similar position for Ascension Health.
  • Joseph R. Impicciche as executive vice president and general counsel. At Ascension Health he held the post of senior vice president for legal services and general counsel.
  • Susan Nestor Levy as executive vice president and as president and chief executive of Ascension Global Mission, which replaces the Seton Institute. She was chief advocacy officer for Ascension Health and executive director of the Seton Institute, which supported health care projects of women religious in the developing world.
  • Sr. Maureen McGuire, DC, as executive vice president of mission integration. She continues as Ascension Health's senior vice president of mission integration.
  • Dr. David Pryor as executive vice president and as president and chief executive of Clinical Holdings, which will assist physicians in running their practices. He was Ascension Health's chief medical officer.
  • Anthony J. Speranzo as executive vice president and chief financial officer. He was Ascension Health's senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Deal sealed with Alexian Brothers

Also on Jan. 1, Ascension Health completed its acquisition of Alexian Brothers Health System of Arlington Heights, Ill. System executives have said since the acquisition is a change in sponsorship, and not a formal purchase; no money changed hands upon the deal's completion.

The systems' executives said the acquisition will better equip Alexian Brothers' four-state network of health care and senior service facilities to handle challenges related to operating in a reform environment. For instance, Alexian will have the resources to make investments that it would not have been able to make as a smaller system. Some of the areas of focus may include information technology, physician alignment strategies and quality and safety initiatives, the executives said.

Alexian Brothers had been searching for a partner since about 2009. The systems announced Ascension Health's plans to acquire Alexian in April 2011. The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approved the affiliation in December.


Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.