Froedtert South's emergency department set to close in downtown Kenosha as the health care provider consolidates services

The only emergency room in downtown Kenosha is about to shut down, despite a meeting Tuesday with City Council members intended to "tap the brakes" on the plan.

The closure is set for Saturday, with a 24/7 urgent care center set to take its place.

People in need of emergency care in the city of 100,000 will now need to travel 8 miles west — a roughly 15-20 minute drive — where they will have access to two emergency departments; Froedtert's Pleasant Prairie Hospital and Aurora Medical Center Kenosha.

Kenosha council member Dave Bogdala met Tuesday with Froedtert South President/CEO Ric Schmidt and Vice President Tom Duncan. The alderman said Wednesday he's in the process of setting up meetings with other council members so hospital administrators can hear more of the city's concerns.

"What we were hoping to get out of this meeting is perhaps to tap the breaks on this a little bit," Bogdala said following his meeting with the hospital officials. "This plan basically came out two weeks (ago). We didn’t have enough time to really plan on how this is going to impact everybody."

Kenosha City Council members last week unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Bogdala opposing the hospital's decision to close the emergency department.

Froedtert South announced its plan to consolidate services Sept. 8. The entire consolidation plan had been in the works for several years.

Schmidt said the decision to consolidate its hospital's emergency department to Pleasant Prairie and turn the Kenosha hospital's emergency department into an urgent care center is based on the data.

Froedtert South's Kenosha emergency department treats about 60 patients per day, a majority of whom are urgent-care or walk-in patients who would continue to be served in Kenosha, according to information provided by the hospital to Wisconsin Public Radio. About five patients per day need emergency services and would be transferred to Pleasant Prairie, the radio report said.

Maintaining an emergency department in downtown Kenosha is key to the city's rebuilding plan for the nearby uptown and downtown neighborhoods in the wake of the civil unrest that followed the 2020 shooting of Kenosha resident Jacob Blake.

Bogdala said new multi-family buildings are in the works that will increase the downtown area's population density in an area with an already high elderly population. He noted when people consider whether to move to an area, they look at the quality of schools and access to services, such as emergency care.

The lack of an emergency department in this part of the state's fourth-largest city "defeats the purposes of what we are trying to do" to rebuild those downtown communities, Bogdala said.

“This is not like a McDonald’s closing down, where you can still go two blocks over, find another McDonald's, and get a Big Mac," Bogdala said. "We are talking about people’s lives here.”

Froedtert South's plan also calls for moving in-patient beds to its Pleasant Prairie hospital and expanding its in-patient mental health beds and rehabilitations services at its Kenosha downtown hospital, according to a Sept. 8 statement provided to the Journal Sentinel by the hospital.

“That is something Kenosha desperately needs," Bogdala said in reference to the boost in mental health beds. "We welcome that into the facility. But not at the expense of an ER.”

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, Bogdala said the experience has highlighted for him one thing about the state of health care services.

“It tells me we have big problems," he said.

More: Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin opens new 24/7 emergency center at Drexel Town Square

More: Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin opens community hospital in Mequon

Jessica Van Egeren can be reached at jvanegeren@gannett.com or (920) 213-5695.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Froedtert South plans to close Kenosha hospital emergency department