Ditch NCHC? NOT SO FAST, say residents

County leaders got an earful this week from healthcare professionals and local residents largely opposed to the plan to end the county’s agreement with North Central Health Care .

The Marathon County Board voted in November to withdraw from its existing tri-county agreement with NCHC after a series of disagreements with agency and explored creating its own health human services department. After a consultant weighed in, the board decided on a plan to terminate its existing agreement with NCHC, then contract with the organization exclusively for three years. Afterward, the door would open to other potential service providers.

That scenario is looking increasingly unlikely. Dozens of speakers took to the podium on Monday protesting the plan, ranging from former drug addicts to representatives from major health care organizations. Aspirus Wausau Hospital President Darrell Lentz said the county’s proposal would be “catastrophic for the community and the patients we serve.”

The county’s proposed plan would, as a side effect, end a psychiatry residency program through the new Medical College of Wisconsin, which hosts its first round of students this fall in Wausau. Its director of residency training, Dr. Ed Krall, says the college would not have established its Wausau campus without NCHC as a partner. It would be forced to end the program should NCHC cease to exist.

Officials from Langlade and Lincoln counties say they have sent letters to Marathon County supervisors asking to work together to fix the issues at NCHC by instilling performance metrics, better accountability and management modifications, but have never been contacted by a Marathon County board member. Langlade Corporation Counsel Robin Stowe expressed concern that Marathon hasn’t consulted its partner counties, adding that Lincoln and Langlade have been “preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.”

The Marathon County board will make a final decision in September, and changes would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.