Three Northeast Iowa hospitals are operating under new ownership following the completion of a transaction on Sunday (May 1, 2016).

The Wheaton Franciscan Sisters finalized an agreement making the Wheaton Healthcare - Iowa operations part of the Des Moines-based Mercy Health Network (MHN).  With the transfer, MHN is now in charge of Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls and Mercy Hospital in Oelwein.

"We are excited to become part of Mercy Health Network, an Iowa-based health care system focused on continuity of care for patients, payers, and employers," said Jack Dusenbery, President and CEO of Wheaton Iowa. "Our hospitals and clinics positioned throughout Northeast Iowa add strength to a state-wide network of health care services focused on improving access and creating efficiencies."

MHN was founded in 1998 under a joint operating agreement between two of the largest Catholic, not-for-profit health organizations in the United States -- Catholic Health Initiatives, based in Englewood, Colo., and Trinity Health, based in Livonia, Mich. With the addition of Wheaton Iowa, MHN includes 15 owned hospitals and medical centers, 26 community hospitals affiliated through contracts, and 207 physician clinics.

"As an Iowa-based health care system with access to two national sponsors, MHN is positioned to best meet the needs of patients, families, employers, insurers and communities throughout the state," said Dave Vellinga, President and CEO of MHN. "Together, we strive to be the premier health care system offering the highest value to thse we serve by improving quality health care, increasing accessibility of care, enhancing services to patients and their families, and reducing costs."

Mercy Health officials said patients shouldn't notice any immediate change in the way operations are run at the three hospitals. They also aren't planning any change in the workforce at the Wheaton facilities.

The pending transfer of the three hospitals was initially announced in October. The Wheaton Franciscan Sisters engaged in a lengthy discemment process to determine the future disposition of their corporate ministries while they are healthy, fiscally sound, and have a strong sense of mission and values.

"The choice to transfer our ministries ensures that the needs of the times will continue to be addressed in each community, as the Sisters have worked to do for more than 140 years," said Sister Pat Norton, Chair of the Sponsor Member Board Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.

Under terms of the agreement, MHN becomes the owner of Wheaton Iowa properties. The transaction will not change the complement of local services and will not result in changes in leadership. MHN will have representation on the local Board of Directors.