Wisconsin’s rural hospitals struggle to provide critical care

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FRIENDSHIP (WKOW) — For the roughly 25 percent of Wisconsinites living in rural communities, emergency care can be difficult to access. That’s where Critical Access Hospitals come in.

They’re small 25-bed facilities with 24/7 emergency rooms located about 35 miles away from hospitals.  Wisconsin has 58, inlcuding Gundersen Moundview in Friendship.

That’s where 80-year-old Nancy Livingston said she’s been receiving care for decades.

“Very grateful this emergency room was here,” she said. “Saved me a couple times.”

In a field where minutes matter, hospital CEO Frank Perez-Guerra said Moundview’s mission is to provide that care close to home but that comes with the same challenges facing rural hospitals across the country.

Those include transportation barriers, difficulty finding and maintaining a quality staff, limited access to local pharmacies and trouble breaking even with few patients and massive operational costs.

“The primary mission is to take care of our patients and take care of our communities but in order to do that we need to be financially viable and its difficult to do that,” Perez-Guerra said.

According to the National Rural Health Association nearly half of rural hospitals across the country lose money and in the past 10 years, 106 hospitals in 29 states have closed their doors, including one in Arcadia, Wisconsin.

Thursday on 27 News at 10, we’re Digging Deeper to learn how one hospital is working to keep itself and its community alive.

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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