(Iron Mountain - December 17, 2017) - Over the past several months, since the announcement of the pending sale of DCHS to Bellin Health, we have questioned a number of people regarding their health care experiences. We only questioned those who brought the issue up themselves.

Regarding DCHS, virtually everyone had high praise for inpatient care at Dickinson County Memorial. Conversely, virtually no one had anything good to say about the DCHS emergency department, which is often the first contact that people have with the facility.

The primary complaints dealt with three issues: Unreasonably long waits, lack of compassion, and accusatory comments regarding the fact that they were even there.

Several of the individuals we spoke with said they went to the emergency department late at night or early in the morning, when there was apparently no one else there. They made this judgment based on the fact that there were half a dozen or more staff sitting around behind the desk gossiping and laughing. Yet, some were kept waiting for more than an hour before anyone paid any attention to them.

The complaints about lack of compassion were almost universal, as were the comments about being made to feel like a “criminal.”

It is not that the DCHS Board of Directors can claim ignorance regarding the emergency department complaints.  A number of the most ardent complainers said that they had written letters or emails to the hospital, but had received no response, other than several who said that they had received an acknowledgement that their letter had been received, but nothing beyond that.

While some were indifferent about having to possibly use the DCHS emergency department in the future, others said that they would rather die than go there again, or that the only way they'd go there again would be if they were carried in.

Several said that they have had issues for which they would have liked to have gone to the emergency department, but instead waited until morning when they could go to the local Bellin Clinic, rather than use the DCHS emergency department.

What this appears to have done is create two classes of patients: The Medicaid and Medicare patients who may not have the means to travel to and from Green Bay, and those with the financial and family support that allows them to easily travel to and from Green Bay.

Several said that they did not want to be hospitalized in Green Bay only because their friends and family did not have the means to visit them there and that they feared being left alone.

Others expressed fear about the future of their health care as they do not have personal means of traveling to and from Green Bay. Ambulance services either by air or on the road can cost thousands of dollars, and much of this cost is not covered by insurances, or by Medicare or Medicaid.

The obvious result of these attitudes has been that DCHS has been left with a disproportionate percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients, with dwindling funding for those programs.  This has been stated as the primary reasons for this action.

Bellin will immediately have an advantage over DCHS in that the organization as a whole has a much larger and more diversified patient base.

The question remains as to whether their intention is to actually invest funds at the local hospital, or just turn it into a transfer station, moving the inpatient load to Green Bay. If the latter occurs, everyone who uses the hospital will incur additional transportation costs which are seldom covered by insurance. We hear much about the "upgrade" to the electronic medical records department. The fact is, DCHS already has an up-to-date very extensive medical records department. The changes that Bellin will make to that system will not be to bring it up-to-date or modernize it, but only to make it compatible with their own system, which utilizes different software.

While Bellin claims that local staff and local services will be kept in place, there is no way that this can be guaranteed, even in the short term. Once the transfer takes place, neither the citizens of Dickinson County or the Board of Commissioners will have any control over their actions.

The “die is cast;” there is virtually no way of turning back at this point, due to the financial condition that DCHS finds itself in. The jury remains out as to whether the people of Dickinson County will come out as winners or losers.

It would almost appear that the DCHS Board of directors had this outcome in mind. Either that, or they have been totally out of touch with the public they are supposed to be serving.


To read earlier story CLICK HERE