Preparing for patients: Local hospitals bracing for impact of Aspirus Ontonagon closure

Local hospitals bracing for impact of Aspirus Ontonagon closure

Courtesy of Aspirus Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital’s emergency entrance

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 reduced operations to a rural health clinic operating five days a week.

Aspirus had announced the impending closure in February. County officials and an ad hoc committee had worked in the meantime in hopes of finding a solution that would maintain emergency services.

One option looked at had been a rural emergency hospital, a federal designation designed to maintain hospital services in areas that would go without emergency care due to hospital closures. However, Aspirus had informed county officials the Ontonagon hospital would not qualify for the designation.

Local law enforcement officers and firefighters will also be undergoing emergency training to be able to provide some services prior to medical transport.

At 47 miles from the Ontonagon hospital, Baraga County Memorial Hospital becomes the nearest hospital for Ontonagon residents, followed by UP Health – Portage in Hancock.

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

In collaboration with SONCO Ambulance, the service that covers Ontonagon County, BCMH has developed a process to restock their emergency medications for a faster turnaround time after patient transportation.

Additionally, BCMH has equipped SONCO to use its existing EMS communication system, Twiage. Through that system, the paramedics can communicate directly with Baraga’s ER physicians while en route with the patient.

The Ontonagon County Sheriff’s Department will also be participating in BCMH’s community behavioral health crisis screening program, which will allow for on-site crisis screenings. As a result, the sheriff’s department will need to perform fewer transports.

This program is a collaborative effort between BCMH and our local law enforcement agencies funded by 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 get familiar with our facility, we would be happy to show them around,” Stowe and Belpedio said.

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 in our preparedness to meet the potential increase in health care 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 delivering the high-quality health care that our community needs and deserves.”


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