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2 hospitals, 19 clinics to close in western Wisconsin, worrying residents and officials

Morning headlines from Jan. 24, 2024
Morning headlines from Jan. 24, 2024 02:37

Two hospitals and nearly 20 clinics will close within months in western Wisconsin, leaving residents and local officials worried about how the closures will impact local health care services.

Hospital Sisters Health System and Prevea Health announced Monday that HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls will permanently close by April 21.

All 19 Prevea Health clinics in western Wisconsin will also close their doors, with most of them as well as a treatment center that HSHS operates in Chippewa Falls set to close by April 21, said Prevea Health spokesperson Angela Deja.

The closures will affect 1,082 HSHS and 325 Prevea employees, according to a news release which said the closures will bring about the health care operators' "complete exit from the western Wisconsin region."

HSHS and Prevea Health, a physician network that offers primary and specialty care, said they've begun a thorough and organized process to safely wind down services and shift patient care to other providers.

But Chippewa Falls resident Rick Flynn said he's concerned that the remaining hospitals in Eau Claire are going to be overwhelmed trying to absorb all of the Chippewa Valley's emergency services and day-to-day medical needs.

"I'm worried about those hospitals' ability to handle so much. I'm worried about our fire department. People need an ambulance, but EMTs can't get to them because they're on a run to Eau Claire every five minutes. How's that going to work?" Flynn told the La Crosse Tribune.

HSHS and Prevea said the closures were driven by long-running operational and financial stresses tied to the lingering impacts of the pandemic, inflation, workforce constraints and other industry-wide trends.

Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman said he was disheartened when he learned of the closures from the news release. He said the health care operators never contacted his office about the impending closures.

"I understand that today the world is getting harder and harder with baby boomers aging and all that. But we've got to figure this out," Hoffman said.

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