Marshfield Clinic will appeal Oneida County's denial of a conditional use permit (CUP) to build a hospital in Minocqua, a Marshfield Clinic official said this week.
Dr. William Melms, regional medical director for the clinic, said in a short July 6 statement that Marshfield would submit the paperwork by the applicable deadline to contest the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee's 3-2 denial of the permit application.
The next stop in the appeals process is the county's Board of Adjustment.
"Although we are disappointed by the committee's decision, we remain resolute in our intention to build a hospital in the Northwoods," Melms said. "Marshfield Clinic is committed to providing our patients the state-of-the-art, integrated care that this facility will provide and the community deserves."
In a separate statement on July 11, Melms said Marshfield wants to locate the hospital in Minocqua but is keeping its options open should the clinic not prevail on appeal. He also dismissed talk that the clinic's reported consideration of an Arbor Vitae location wasn't serious.
"We have made it clear on a number of occasions that we want to build an acute care facility in northern Wisconsin," he said. "Minocqua is our first choice, but we are considering alternatives should Minocqua not pan out. Arbor Vitae is one location under consideration - not a bluff."
Melms expressed disappointment with the resistance Marshfield has received in Oneida County, but he pointed out that the clinic would have to win approval in Vilas County as well if Marshfield headed in that direction.
"It would be great to experience a more welcoming approval process than we have encountered in Oneida County, but Vilas County has its own process which we would need to follow, whatever that would entail," he said. "We have an excellent project which will enhance whatever community it lands in."
Melms also said those who have opposed Marshfield in Oneida County might well contest the clinic in Vilas County.
"That doesn't mean those who want to avoid competing with Marshfield won't try to use the administrative process to slow us down," he said. "The size and scope of any facility we build will depend on the location we choose and will be scaled to the service area."
Howard Young Medical Center officials have opposed Marshfield's bid to expand - both the proposed hospital and a skilled nursing facility it wanted to build in 2015 - but has said its opposition is not about avoiding competition but about the ability of both facilities to survive in an over-capacity market.
Marshfield is proposing a 12-bed, $30-million hospital.
The zoning committee's denial turned on one standard for granting a CUP - that the project "not be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort or general welfare."
Supervisors Billy Fried and Dave Hintz supported the application. As The Times previously reported, Hintz said it was impossible for the applicant to prove the hospital would not have a negative impact on the community, and, while it was impossible to predict what might happen, he thought it would have a positive impact.
Fried questioned whether the committee was moving beyond the scope of the general welfare standard and broadly invading issues beyond land use.
Scott Holewinski, Jack Sorensen, and Mike Timmons opposed the application. Sorensen cited the lack of a need for the facility, the duplication of services, and the likelihood that the community could not support two hospitals.
Timmons seconded Sorenson's fear that both hospitals could not survive.
While it's not clear what the Board of Adjustment (BOA) will do, the BOA did reject Marshfield's 2015 appeal of a zoning committee denial for a CUP for the skilled nursing facility. It was a sweeping 5-0 decision.
At the time, the clinic has proposed a 12-bed facility to better serve its ambulatory surgery center (ASC) patients who might need an in-residence recovery stay of three days or less.
ASC patients must be discharged within 24 hours. Howard Young serves patients needing care for longer than a day.
Many of the same arguments were made in that case, with Howard Young officials saying the proposed facility would represent a duplication of already existing services in an area where the population isn't growing and where health-care services are already over-capacity.
Marshfield said its model would both provide a better patient experience than a stay in a hospital and lower costs because many patients didn't need the full-service care a hospital stay provides.
In this case, Marshfield has again emphasized the quality of its product, saying it wants to give the community the same world-class care and patient experience in an in-patient setting that it does in more than 50 clinics and hospitals across Wisconsin.
If Marshfield loses at the Board of Adjustment, it could appeal to circuit court.
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