Hospital system to pull emergency room services out of Kenosha

Kenosha City Council asked Froedtert South to reconsider its decision to move emergency services outside of city

A ventilator with a screen and many buttons and knobs is placed in the back of an ambulance.
A critical care ventilator with advanced capabilities is kept in some Waushara County EMS ambulances. Angela Major/WPR

A hospital’s move to close its emergency room in downtown Kenosha will force those who need care to travel outside of the city.

The Kenosha City Council last week voted unanimously on a resolution calling on leaders at Froedtert South, which operates hospitals in Kenosha and Pleasant Prairie, to reconsider its decision to consolidate its emergency departments in the Pleasant Prairie hospital. Froedtert South said the change will take effect Saturday.

The hospital in Pleasant Prairie is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Kenosha.

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Froedtert’s move will convert the Kenosha ER into an urgent-care department. But Kenosha leaders say it will leave the city without vital services.

“God forbid something happens to somebody here,” said City Council member Dave Bogdala, who sponsored the Council’s resolution during the Sept. 19 meeting. “(The emergency room) is 8 miles away from here. Depending on where those rescue squads are … you’re traveling 8 miles down here, then 8 miles back out there.”

In an interview, Council member Anthony Kennedy said leaders at Froedtert South had not engaged the city about the move, and he doubted they would revisit the decision. But he said it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the health system is building up one location at the expense of another.

“They have been wanting to stand (Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital) up in a way that doesn’t bring additional resources to the community — it saps resources from one community and goes to another community,” Kennedy said. “You are stripping Kenosha to service the Pleasant Prairie location.”

In a statement responding to the Council provided to Wisconsin Public Radio, Froedtert South CEO Ric Schmidt said the Kenosha hospital “is not equipped to handle” patients with “gunshot wounds, knifings, compound fractures” or a range of other ailments including strokes and gastrointestinal issues. Schmidt said the scarcity of private ambulances needed to transfer patients from Kenosha to Pleasant Prairie was behind the health system’s decision.

Schmidt also wrote that effective Oct. 1, the Kenosha Fire Department will transfer patients from its downtown hospital to the emergency department in Pleasant Prairie.

Kennedy said that is an imposition on city services.

“It’s going to take away from the things that we’re already doing to run people from the urgent care out to their emergency room,” he said.

Schmidt’s statement said the Kenosha emergency department currently treats about 60 patients per day, of whom an average of 55 are urgent-care or walk-in patients who would continue to be served in Kenosha. About five patients per day need emergency services and would be transferred to Pleasant Prairie.

At the City Council meeting, Bogdala said he hoped Froedtert South would delay the consolidation. Schmidt said he and other leaders would meet with Council members, but the hospital announced no plans to delay or reconsider the closure.