Clinic says Ministry’s challenge of East Wing remodeling just an attempt to ‘slow things down’
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Tension continues to grow between Marshfield Clinic and Ministry Health Care. At this evening’s zoning board of appeals meeting, Ministry will challenge the remodeling being done by Marshfield Clinic in its East Wing, arguing that its building permits should be revoked, construction should be halted, and that the clinic should have to be issued conditional use permits for the construction. Leadership from both Ministry Health Care and Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) will be present.
President and CEO of Ministry Health Care Daniel Neufelder has said that, “We’re really looking … to make sure people are following the proper regulatory processes,” in regard to the permit issue.
Today MCHS COO Dan Ramsey responded by saying, “I never thought of one of Ministry’s role in the world is to monitor the regulatory process, so that’s news to me. I think it is pretty clear that the only advantage (to Ministry) is a delay.”
Ramsey also said, “There’s really nothing about any of the projects that we’re talking about that is inconsistent with the zoning and the land use. What it appears is Ministry is pointing to a possible technicality and raising it as a way to simply slow things down.”
Marshfield Clinic and Ministry leadership have had discussions as recently as last week, Ramsey said, adding that MCHS leadership is still actively seeking out conversations with Saint Joseph’s on the local level. When asked if trying to have productive conversations with Saint Joseph’s Hospital was made more difficult by also needing to work with Ministry Health Care leadership, which owns Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and Ascension leadership, which owns Ministry Health Care, Ramsey said, “It doesn’t make it any easier. That’s for sure.”
Ascension is the “world’s largest catholic health care organization,” Neufelder said in an interview with Hub City Times last week.
When asked about the negative feedback that has been directed at both organizations from the community regarding the rift between the two, Ramsey said the matter is nuanced.
“I think it’s a nice thought that, you know, ‘Why can’t we just all get along?’” Ramsey said. “It’s just not that easy. … Health care has changed remarkably around the country.” Ramsey added that the clinic’s initiative to renovate its East Wing and build a new hospital is being undertaken to reduce the cost of care for patients.
“Great quality health care is worthless if it’s not accessible. It’s not accessible if it’s not affordable, so that’s really what’s driving this from the clinic’s standpoint is we believe that we have to change that cost structure here in the central and northern part of Wisconsin. And in order to do that, you have to do things differently, and to this point in time, Saint Joe’s has not been very interested in being a part of that. So rather than continuing to wait, we have decided to move ahead,” Ramsey said. He added that keeping things status quo in Marshfield would potentially be MCHS’ worst option.
“Simply not doing anything, just getting along, may in fact be the worst thing that the clinic could do for health care in this part of the state, the employees that work at the clinic, the employees that work at the hospital, because it jeopardizes the future viability of both the clinic and Saint Joseph’s Hospital,” Ramsey said.
Neufelder told Hub City Times last week that Saint Joseph’s is in the process of planning renovations to create private rooms at a cost of about $3 million per floor on eight floors in its North Tower. Vince Gallucci, chief marketing and communications officer for Ministry Health Care, said in that same interview, “There is no doubt within the last decade, prior to even the new management presence, there has been tens of millions of dollars invested in upgrades to Saint Joseph’s Hospital, whether that’s through medical technology, whether that’s through expansion, equipment, and the like.”
Ramsey said that the investments Ministry has made in the past and plans to make in the future are not enough to alter the model of health care delivery in Marshfield or the direction Marshfield Clinic intends to take.
“If you think about the size and the cost of hospitals, $10, $20 million spread over a facility the size of Saint Joe’s or even the size of a facility we’re talking about is barely scratching the surface. You don’t fundamentally change the model the way we’re talking about by throwing $10 or $20 million at it,” Ramsey said.
In February MCHS CEO Dr. Susan Turney said that the model of health care delivery is changing and that much of the patient care that is currently being provided in hospitals can now be moved to ambulatory settings. Additionally, she said that in the future some care that is provided in clinics will be provided offsite through “virtual care and other mobile technologies.”
“I think all systems are trying to figure out, ‘How do you lower the cost of care, make sure the patient is getting the right care at the right site by the right provider?’ because that’s the only way we can lower the cost of care,” Turney said in February.
In a press release last week, MCHS said its new hospital will be “slightly smaller than Ministry Saint Joseph’s and will be a more efficient, high-tech building.”
Hub City Times has reached out to Ministry Health Care for further comment regarding the issues presented in this story and is awaiting response.