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Department of Health Services Declines to Investigate HSHS

Department of Health Services Declines to Investigate HSHS

May 14, 2024 11:34 AM CDT

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After Eau Claire City Attorney Stephen Nick requested an investigation into HSHS, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has responded.

In early April, City Attorney Stephen Nick sent a letter to the Department of Health Services asking them to investigate whether HSHS and its leadership had met and were continuing to meet their legal obligations following the closure of Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s Hospitals.

In the letter, Nick noted the devastation the abrupt departure of HSHS and Prevea from the region left in the healthcare field. He accused HSHS leadership of closing the hospitals without adequate notice, coordination, and regard for the effects it would have on area patients.

Nick also accused HSHS leadership of considering the closure for nearly two years without notifying local leaders of the possibility to give them more time to conjure a solution to the problem.

In the response from the Department of Health Services, officials said they were not able to open an investigation based on Nick’s request. Their letter said they were not allowed to open an investigation into the behavior or decision making of the CEO unless an allegation was put forth that they had violated the Medicare Conditions of Participation.

Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls have been closed since late March. Most Prevea facilities in the region had also closed by late April, with a handful of clinics scheduled to continue operations until June.

Local leaders have been searching for long-term solutions, but in the meantime other healthcare providers have stepped up their services in the area. The state legislature also approved $15 million in emergency funding, which is currently held up in the Republican controlled Joint Finance Committee. The committee has refused to release the funding, arguing that line item vetoes by Governor Tony Evers made the funding too flexible.

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