Wisconsin Weekly: Rural hospitals merge, cut services to stay alive

Rural health care at risk; MKE activists seek to bring out black voters; a district where most residents cannot vote; tick-borne illnesses balloon

Of note: We bring your attention this week to a Wisconsin Watch story by reporter Parker Schorr profiling a small hospital in Neillsville, Wisconsin, that stayed alive by merging with a much larger health care system. The story is part of the project, Seeking a cure: The quest to save rural hospitals, a collaboration of 12 news outlets organized by the Institute for Nonprofit News. Reporters who fanned out across the Midwest found that while many rural hospitals operate in the red, they are trying a variety of strategies to stay afloat and to attract doctors. 

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Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Cassie Symons, a physical therapist assistant, works with patient Peter Langreck, who recently had a bilateral knee replacement, at Marshfield Medical Center-Neillsville in Neillsville, Wis. The formerly independent hospital merged with the larger Marshfield Clinic Health System in 2018 in a bid to remain open. Photo taken Sept. 19, 2019.

How one small Wisconsin hospital was saved amid a statewide rural health crisis

Wisconsin Watch — September 30, 2019

Nationwide, 155 rural hospitals have closed in the past 15 years, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. Wisconsin has fared better than many states: Just one of its rural hospitals has closed in the past 10 years. But as of 2017, one-fifth of Wisconsin’s 76 rural hospitals were operating in the red, according to a report from Chartis and iVantage Health Analytics. Mergers, reduced services and expanding Medicaid are some ways to save rural hospitals, while proposals for new funding models are stalled in Congress. Also from Wisconsin Watch: Rural Wisconsin communities seek path to better health care future.

Many black voters in Milwaukee stayed home in 2016. They don’t want to be taken for granted in 2020. 

The Washington Post — October 1, 2019

This seven-minute video focuses on a grassroots campaign in Milwaukee that is working to get African-Americans more involved in the political process. Could such efforts help turn Wisconsin blue again?

Political Prisoners? 

NPR Code Switch — October 2, 2019

In  “Prison City” Wisconsin, white elected officials in Waupun represent voting districts made up mostly of prisoners. Those prisoners are disproportionately black and brown. Oh, and they can’t actually vote. The issues are explored in this 30-minute podcast.

As tick-borne illness spreads across the U.S., so does grassroots education to prevent it

Ensia — October 1, 2019

When Nancy Fox and Cassidy Colbert began their three-month-long road trip across the United States this past summer, it was with one goal in mind: Prevent the spread of Lyme disease to as many kids as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year — many of them in Wisconsin. However, of those cases, only about 30,000 are reported by state health departments. Over the past few decades, reports of tick-borne illness have increased, almost tripling between 2004 and 2017.

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