Mayo Clinic Steps Up to Address Healthcare Gap in Western Wisconsin

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Zara Nwosu
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Mayo Clinic Steps Up to Address Healthcare Gap in Western Wisconsin

The healthcare landscape in Western Wisconsin has been rocked by the closure of hospitals and clinics operated by Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS), leaving a significant gap in patient care. The closure of two hospitals and nineteen clinics, including Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls, due to financial stress and industry-wide trends, has left over 1,400 employees out of work and raised concerns about access to healthcare in rural communities. Amidst this crisis, Mayo Clinic is taking valuable steps to ensure the continuity of care for patients in this region.

Mayo Clinic's Initiatives to Serve More Patients

Mayo Clinic, a renowned healthcare system with 16 hospitals and 53 multispecialty clinics, is swiftly working to increase its capacity to serve more patients in Western Wisconsin. Among many initiatives, Mayo Clinic is increasing capacity at critical access hospitals, boosting the family birthing center, and expanding emergency department and urgent care capacities. Mayo Clinic is also focusing on promoting virtual care options, establishing a dedicated team for primary care patients, and collaborating with other Mayo sites.

Another promising initiative is the expansion of the Advanced Care at Home program, which allows patients to receive hospital-level care in the comfort of their homes. This innovative approach to healthcare not only makes medical services more accessible to patients but also helps in reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections.

Recruitment and Collaboration

Mayo Clinic is also prioritizing placement and recruitment for high-demand service lines, adding clinical hours for nursing students, and participating in the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce Recovery Task Force. These efforts are crucial for maintaining the quality of healthcare services in the region and ensuring that patients have access to the care they need.

Support from State Authorities

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and various state agencies are also stepping up to support the local healthcare workforce affected by the closures. Efforts include hosting job fairs, providing job search assistance, unemployment insurance application help, interview preparation, and career counseling. The Department of Health Services is working with other healthcare providers to open up access to former patients of HSHS and Prevea Health.

Legal Responsibilities and Community Expectations

The closure of HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and Prevea clinics has raised concerns about the legal responsibilities of the health systems. City Attorney Stephen Nick has insisted that HSHS meet all of its statutory, contractual, taxpayer funded, and other legal obligations. He has also invited HSHS to stay true to their stated dedication to serve 'the sick and those in need' and requested positive engagement to achieve a better transition for continuation of care.

Potential Buyers and Future Plans

OakLeaf Medical Network, the largest independent physician network in Wisconsin, has expressed interest in purchasing some of the closing hospital properties with the intent of creating an independent community hospital. This could potentially serve as a lifeline for the affected communities and ensure their access to essential healthcare services. Meanwhile, Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin is committed to identifying opportunities to serve more patients and providing safe, high-quality care despite the changes in the regional healthcare landscape.

In conclusion, the closure of HSHS hospitals and clinics in Western Wisconsin has created a significant challenge for the healthcare system in the region. However, the proactive steps taken by Mayo Clinic and the support from state authorities are encouraging signs. The focus is now on ensuring smooth transitions, meeting community needs, and maintaining the highest standards of patient care.