Wisconsin Provides Crisis Response Funding After Hospital Closures

March 1, 2024
The $15 million in funding will support healthcare access in Western Wisconsin in the wake of the announced closures

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has approved a bill securing $15 million in crisis response resources to support healthcare access in Western Wisconsin in the wake of the recent announcement of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) and Prevea Health’s decision to close several locations.

Two Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) hospitals and 19 Prevea Health clinics recently announced they will be shutting down in April, leaving a huge care gap in northwest Wisconsin and nearly 1,400 people unemployed, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

The governor approved Act 97 with changes through line-item vetoes that his office said would provide additional flexibility for the $15 million crisis response investment, enabling the resources to be used to fund any hospital services meeting the area’s healthcare needs, including urgent care services, OB-GYN services, inpatient psychiatry services, and mental health substance use services, among others. 

Evers made the announcement Feb. 28 in Madison while speaking with community leaders from the Chippewa Valley region at the Chippewa Valley Rally, an annual event organized by the Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance, which represents the Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, and Eau Claire Chambers of Commerce. 

“Recent hospital closures in Western Wisconsin have disrupted Wisconsinites’ ability to access basic, everyday healthcare services and uprooted the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of folks and their families,” Evers said in a statement. “My administration and I are working to do everything we can to support those workers and their families, as well as folks across the area who need to be able to access basic and emergency healthcare services alike. 

“I’m proud to be securing $15 million in crisis response funding while using my constitutional veto authority to make improvements to ensure more flexibility so these critical resources can be used for any hospital services to meet the healthcare access needs of the Chippewa Valley region, no matter what they may be,” Gov. Evers continued. “It’s been clear in my visits to the Chippewa Valley region and my conversations with community leaders that the impacts of these recent closures do not end at hospital emergency doors—these closures are affecting access to critical healthcare services across the board, and we have to be responsive to these challenges to meet Wisconsinites’ and communities’ needs.”

Once it has approval from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) will make the crisis response funds available for any hospital services that meet the needs of the region.

DHS is facilitating conversations between the leadership of HSHS and Prevea Health and the leadership of other regional healthcare systems, including Marshfield Clinic Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System, and is continuing to urge the three systems to increase transparency in their planning and decision-making.  

DHS will continue to monitor EMS, trauma, and crisis response going forward, in addition to ongoing transition and continuity of care planning, including coordination of an agreement to transfer certain patients from HSHS to Mayo Clinic; and necessary steps to ensure all local OB/GYNs have privileges at all local hospitals so they can continue to provide care locally regardless of the facility at which they are working. This is particularly important given the pre-existing shortages with regard to OB/GYN care in the region. 

 

 

 

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