Hospitals prepare for impact of Aspirus Ontonagon shift | News, sports, jobs

The former emergency entrance of the Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital. Aspirus has turned the hospital into a rural health clinic without emergency care. (Courtesy of Aspirus)

L’ANSE — With the closure of Ontonagon’s hospital and emergency department, nearby hospitals are preparing for additional patient care.

Effective Saturday, Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital has reduced operations to a rural health clinic operating five days a week.

Aspirus had already announced the impending closure in February. County officials and an ad hoc committee had been working in the meantime, hoping to find a solution that would keep emergency services going.

One of the options explored was a rural emergency hospital, a federal designation intended to maintain hospital services in areas where emergency care would not exist due to hospital closures. However, Aspirus had informed provincial officials that Ontonagon Hospital would not be eligible for the designation.

Local law enforcement and firefighters will also undergo emergency training to provide certain services prior to medical transport.

Located 47 miles from Ontonagon Hospital, Baraga County Memorial Hospital will be the closest hospital for Ontonagon residents, followed by UP Health-Portage in Hancock.

Baraga expects to receive more patients, CEO Rob Stowe said in a statement with BCMH project manager Lynn Belpedio.

In partnership with SONCO Ambulance, the service covering Ontonagon County, BCMH has developed a process to replenish their emergency medications for faster turnaround time after patient transport.

Additionally, BCMH has equipped SONCO to use its existing EMS communications system, Twiage. That system allows the paramedics to communicate directly with Baraga’s emergency physicians while on the road with the patient.

The Ontonagon County Sheriff’s Department will also participate in the BCMH Behavioral Healthcare Crisis Screening Program, which will allow for on-site crisis screening. As a result, the sheriff’s department will have to make fewer transports.

This program is a partnership between BCMH and our local law enforcement agencies, funded by the Copper Shores Community Health Foundation.

“We want the residents of Ontonagon to know that we certainly welcome them to our hospital, and if they would like to come by and learn about our facility, we would be happy to show them around,” Said Ode and Belpedio.

In a statement, UP Health – Portage said it was prepared for any potential increase in services.

“While we cannot precisely predict the full impact this closure will have on our patient volumes, we are confident that we are prepared to meet the potential increase in healthcare needs.” it said. “As part of the broader UP Health System, our network is well equipped to provide the necessary support and care. We are committed, as always, to providing the high-quality health care our community needs and deserves.”

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