By Ben Meyer
WFJW Newswatch 12 Managing Editor/Senior Reporter
MINOCQUA — Marshfield Clinic calls its plan for a new Minocqua hospital an “innovation.”
Howard Young hospital, which sits just a quarter of a mile away, calls it a “duplication.”
Marshfield Clinic publicly presented its plan for a new hospital in Minocqua for the first time on Jan. 31. The Minocqua Plan Commission heard Marshfield Clinic’s proposal for the $30 million building. It also heard Howard Young’s argument against the proposal.
The commission put off any action but listened to a number of passionate people discuss the issue.
Dr. Barbara Boyer has practiced surgery at Howard Young hospital in Woodruff for 18 years. But on Tuesday, she told the Minocqua Plan Commission that she is ready to be done with Howard Young.
“I’m tired of not having meaningful input into important patient care decisions,” Boyer said.
Boyer said she is ready to leave Howard Young behind for a new Marshfield Clinic Minocqua hospital. St. Louis-based Ascension Health bought out Howard Young and the entire Ministry Health Care system last year. Boyer said since then, Ascension managers have reduced the amount local doctors are relied upon for patient care decisions.
Boyer is employed by Marshfield Clinic but practices at Howard Young, which is true for 88 percent of Howard Young doctors. She said she speaks for a large number of physicians at Howard Young.
“Ascension isn’t interested in Minocqua. Ascension is interested in the nation,” Boyer said. “They’re interested in the nation, and they have a lot of interest in their hospital in Rhinelander, but they’re not invested in Minocqua.”
Marshfield Clinic wants to build its 72,000-square-foot hospital just west of its current clinic location and plans to start construction in April and finish it by January 2018. Marshfield Clinic said the hospital would employ 45 to 50 new staff and be designed for future expansion vertically and horizontally.
Howard Young opposed the project immediately.
“To have two hospitals, when we already at Howard Young have excess capacity for room — we have, still, a closed fourth floor — doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Howard Young Medical Center President Sandy Anderson.
Howard Young could lose revenue with another hospital nearby, but Anderson said her concerns were more about logistics.
“I’m not sure it’s all about the revenue,” she said. “Can a community of 4,000 people support the infrastructure of two facilities?”
Marshfield Clinic was not surprised to face Howard Young’s opposition.
“The problem with innovation and competition is that it does go against the status quo,” said Marshfield Clinic Regional Medical Director Dr. William Melms. “The status quo fears innovation.”
Although the new hospital would be within walking distance of Howard Young, Marshfield Clinic said its unique integrated medical record would make it innovative.
“When you do something and you do it better, then that’s not duplication,” Melms said. “That’s innovation.”
Boyer, a surgeon, craves the additional integration. She said Howard Young’s setup does not work well for doctors.
“I spend about two hours on clerical work for every hour I spend in patient care time,” Boyer said. “I want to spend my time taking care of patients.”
Melms wants to work through the regulatory process quickly and begin construction.
“When we have that permit in place, then we are ready to dig a hole, and we are ready to provide care in our facility,” he said.
The Minocqua Plan Commission asked Marshfield Clinic to come back on Feb. 14 with more detailed plans. The commission will then recommend either approving or denying the hospital to the full town board.
An Oneida County committee will have the final say on the plan.