Wisconsin health department declines to investigate HSHS, CEO after hospital closures

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services does not have the authority to open an investigation into Springfield, Ill.-based Hospital Sisters Health System and its president and CEO Damond Boatwright after two of its Wisconsin hospitals, Chippewa Falls, Wis.-based St. Joseph's Hospital and Eau Claire, Wis.-based Sacred Heart Hospital closed March 22.

Eau Claire City Attorney Stephen Nick wrote a letter to the state DHS on April 9 asking the department to "thoroughly investigate whether HSHS, under its current executive and board leadership, met and can continue to meet all state, local, and federal requirements and expectations for continued licensure at their remaining facilities in Wisconsin," according to a May 9 state DHS response letter to Mr. Nick shared with Becker's

According to the letter, DHS looked into three state law sources to determine whether it had authority to open an investigation into Mr. Nick's request, and found that the department was unable to do so.

"None of those sources of authority currently contain any timing requirements for hospital  closure notifications nor any conditions regarding a hospital's financial fitness," the response letter said. "They also do not allow us to open an investigation into the behavior or decision-making of a hospital's CEO absent an allegation that the CEO's actions constitute a violation of the Medicare Conditions of Participation."

Mr. Nick has urged action to be taken not only on the issue of the HSHS hospital closures, but for Wisconsin leaders to address the ability for hospitals in the state to close without proper notice to healthcare providers, patients, employees and the communities. 

"We need to expect and require more from our health care systems for the protection of our residents' access to health care," he said in a statement shared with Becker's.

Mr. Nick also pushed for the State Joint Finance Committee to release the approved $15 million in state hospital relief funding that has been tied up in state lawmaker disagreements. 

Most recently, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers sued Republican state legislators on May 13 for not releasing around $200 million in state investments, including the $15 million relief funding for hospitals. 

"We need the Governor and legislators, state and federal, to stop pointing partisan fingers at each other and address the serious issues of healthcare in the Chippewa Valley and in our State," Mr. Nick said. "Hospitals are vital and provide a necessary community service for which they receive many public benefits and private donations in addition to Medicaid, Medicare and private pay health insurance. They may very well need additional funding especially in more rural areas to ensure continued service."

Becker's has reached out to HSHS for comment and will update this story should more information become available. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars