Ascension Wisconsin’s former radiology services provider is suing the health care system, alleging it violated the terms of their contract when it entered a new partnership with Nashville-based Premier Radiology. After terminating its contract with Milwaukee Radiologist Ltd., Ascension did not stagger the wind-down of MRL’s services across its health care facilities per their agreement, the radiology group claims. MRL is seeking a declaratory judgement against Ascension Wisconsin in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.Ascension’s predecessor Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare entered into an agreement in August 2012 for MRL to be its exclusive provider of radiology services at 11 of its facilities, and later expanded the agreement to include 15 facilities, according to the lawsuit. Wheaton became part of Ascension in 2016. In February 2018, Ascension informed MRL it was terminating the agreement. MRL then scheduled its departure from Ascension facilities in six-month intervals, with plans to ultimately exit its final Ascension facility in September 2025, according to the lawsuit. MRL said it made staffing decisions, including hiring physicians, based on that plan. In November 2018, Ascension proposed a different termination schedule that was “inconsistent with the terms” of their agreement, MRL claims in the lawsuit. Ascension Wisconsin declined to comment on the litigation. In February 2020, MRL issued its own revised termination schedule that would have it exiting its final Ascension facility in September 2024. Ascension did not respond to that revised schedule, according to the lawsuit.
That same month, Ascension Wisconsin announced a new joint venture with Premier Radiology Wisconsin to manage operations at existing outpatient sites and develop new freestanding imaging centers throughout metro Milwaukee and Racine.
MRL claims that partnership is a violation of the staggered termination provision of their agreement. According to the lawsuit, Ascension said it could terminate MRL’s role at two of its facilities because the health system is converting them from outpatient center imaging sites to independent diagnostic testing facilities. MRL said it will “lose millions in dollars of revenue” from the premature termination of contracts with Ascension facilities in Brown Deer and Wauwatosa alone, as it has already planned to provide services there for another three and four years.