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Mercer to hold public forum on healthcare accessibility in Iron County

A group of medical workers
A group of medical workers

Since the Marshfield Health System closed their Mercer clinic in January, accessible healthcare has been an issue for folks in the area.

Community members are planning a forum for Thursday night to discuss rural healthcare and potential opportunities to improve the situation.

On Thursday, residents are planning a forum on rural healthcare problems in Mercer at the Community Center.

In January, the Mercer clinic in the Marshfield Health System closed, the impacts reverberating through the community.

Iron County doesn’t have a hospital.

The next closest hospitals are in Ironwood and Minocqua.

Mike Shouldice is involved in organizing the forum.

“With that closing, folks in Mercer have to choose. They’ve got something nearly an hour drive, whether they go north towards Ironwood or Ashland, or south towards Minocqua,” he said.

“Iron county has got an aging population. And so, healthcare needs increase as one gets older and having to face the challenges of driving greater distances is a major inconvenience,” said Shouldice.

A 2021 report from UW Madison noted that many of Wisconsin’s northern rural counties have a higher median age than more metropolitan areas.

In Iron County, the median age is between 46 and 51 years old, whereas the median age in Dane County, for example, is between 31 and 37 years old.

The forum will kick off with a panel discussion contextualizing Mercer’s specific issues and opportunities nationally with a larger conversation on rural healthcare in the US.

Speakers at the panel discussion will include Reba Rice, CEO of Northlakes Community Clinic; Greg Nycz, CEO of Family Health Center of Marshfield; and Melissa Geach, Iron County Health Officer.

There’s going to be a Community Health Assessment survey in mid-March to help develop the Community Health Improvement Plan.

That’ll be discussed at the panel discussion.

It’s a collaboration between Ashland, Bayfield, and the Iron County Health Department, along with Tamarack Health, to understand factors impacting health in Mercer.

“We hope that it attracts folks that care about the community and they bring their specific questions about what the options might be,” said Shouldice.

Through the public forum, organizers are hoping to attract healthcare solutions.

“We are hoping that some healthcare operator might be, might view the Mercer clinic as an opportunity to come into Mercer,” said Shouldice.

The event will begin at 6:00pm with an hour long panel discussion followed by a question and answer session.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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