Following the announcement last month from Ascension Wisconsin that the outpatient surgical services department at Ascension Eagle River Hospital had closed, officials have given more details about the future of the hospital and its services to patients.

Laurie Oungst, chief administrative officer of Ascension Eagle River Hospital, said it is necessary for the hospital to focus on core services provided to the community.

“In Eagle River, this includes inpatient and swing-bed care as well as emergency services and the support areas of lab, radiology, pharmacy, rehabilitation services and therapeutic IV services,” said Oungst.

Oungst said employees who were impacted by the closure of the outpatient surgical services department in mid-June were offered job placement assistance. The number of employees impacted is not known and has not been released by Ascension.

Other elective procedures will continue at Eagle River, according to Oungst.

“It is important to note that most of the services delivered from the outpatient surgery department will continue to be provided from other care locations within Ascension Eagle River Hospital,” said Oungst. “All outpatient therapy services such as IV therapy, injections, transfusion, port flushes and wound care will take place in the nursing unit. Other pain and urology procedures can and will be appropriately provided in the clinic setting.”

No other services provided by the hospital are impacted, according to Oungst.

“We are working with patients to ensure continuity of care to schedule these other elective procedures at Ascension facilities in the North Woods or connect them with other resources if requested by patient choice,” said Oungst.

Oungst said access to physicians is a significant challenge for the health care industry in the United States, especially in rural areas. She said the use of nurse practitioners, who have their own licenses and practice under a collaborative agreement with a physician, has increased significantly across the country. 

“Ascension Wisconsin has many nurse practitioners in our hospitals and clinics who are committed to our mission of providing personalized compassionate care, especially for those in need,” Oungst.

Ascension Eagle River Hospital uses nurse practitioners to care for hospitalized patients under a collaborative agreement with physicians at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital. 

“This program was the first of its kind in Wisconsin and has been replicated by other health care systems in the state serving rural areas,” said Oungst. “Technology also plays a vital role in the delivery of health care services to rural areas and our innovative use of telemedicine provides access to additional services with the goal of keeping care local whenever possible.”

As the health care industry, both nationally and in Wisconsin, continues to evolve, Oungst said it is necessary for Ascension Eagle River Hospital to focus on core services provided to the community. 

“Recognizing our role as anchors in our communities we are making changes to ensure the continued strength and sustainability of our ministry and the core services provided to the community,” said Oungst. “As a critical access hospital designed to provide services to rural communities, we understand the importance of Ascension Eagle River Hospital and our Ascension Medical Group Clinic to the community and the vital roles they have for area residents and visitors.”

With a focus on core services, Oungst said the outpatient surgical department space will be given new purpose. Currently, outpatient cardiac rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapy are co-located in the lower level of the hospital facility and require additional space to care for patient needs. 

“The outpatient surgery area is undergoing minor modifications to accommodate the relocation of cardiac rehabilitation consults, therapy and echo cardiogram testing,” said Oungst. “This will provide patients with improved access to those services and will allow flexibility for physical and occupational therapy in the lower level of the facility to expand.”