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Mercer public healthcare forum highlights lack of hospital in Iron County

While its overall uninsured rate is on the lower end, Wisconsin is among the many states with huge disparities when it comes to health coverage.
Suchada Toemkraisri
Adobe Stock
While its overall uninsured rate is on the lower end, Wisconsin is among the many states with huge disparities when it comes to health coverage.

In Iron County, there isn’t a hospital.

That’s why community members organized a public forum last week in Mercer with healthcare professionals to discuss the disparity.

When the Marshfield Health System closed their Mercer clinic in January, Iron County lost their major healthcare facility.

Now, people need to travel to Minocqua or Ironwood to access the nearest hospitals.

On Thursday night, Mercer community members held a public healthcare forum addressing the issue with local professionals.

The event was attended by around 100 people.

Mike Shouldice is a community member involved in organizing the public forum.

“That was very well attended. People showed up, dramatizing the interest that the community has in the challenges of unavailability of healthcare in northern Wisconsin,” said Shouldice.

“There was a show of hands early in the program as to how many people had used the Mercer clinic that had been operated by the Marshfield Clinic, and 90 some percent of the people in the audience raised their hands,” said Shouldice.

When the speaker asked how many people would use the clinic if it reopened, the crowd had the same strong response.

Shouldice said that questions about insurance came up frequently.

They noted that Wisconsin is one of 10 states to not expand medicaid coverage.

There was frustration that Wisconsin taxpayers were supporting coverage expansion in the rest of the country but not receiving the benefits themselves.

“I think the highlights of the program included a robust discussion about the challenges of rural healthcare, in terms of the mix of people who have employer sponsored health insurance, people on Medicare and Medicaid, people who don't have insurance at all,” said Shouldice.

There was a representative from NorthLakes Community Clinic who spoke about the challenges facing rural healthcare providers.

Melissa Geach, Iron County Health Officer and Greg Nycz, CEO of Family Health Center of Marshfield, were also speakers at the forum.

Geach presented on a survey the department is preparing for residents of Iron, Ashland, and Bayfield Counties.

The Iron County Health Department and Tamarack Health are collaborating to learn more about the specific challenges that impact the tri-county area.

“It helps us identify how and where resources that we get are allocated to best address the needs of our community, and who we should partner with to make sure those needs are met,” she said.

Geach told WXPR following the event that Family Health Center of Marshfield is interested in the Mercer clinic.

“They did say that they were going to be looking into buying the building and providing services at that location. But all the details have not been released,” said Geach.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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