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As Marshfield's pediatric therapy clubhouse nears closure in Rice Lake, parents speak out

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Therapy clubhouse

RICE LAKE (WQOW) - Out of nearly 350 jobs being cut at Marshfield Clinic's across Wisconsin by May, 40 are from Rice Lake, where a group of mothers are fighting to make sure their children will continue to receive the health care they need.

These children from the Rice Lake area all have special needs that require specialized forms of therapy. To date, those needs have been met by the pediatric therapy clubhouse, but that's set to change in May.

Dr. Brandon Parkhurst, the vice presdient of medical affairs for Marshfield Medical Center - Rice Lake, said services at the clubhouse are ending as a part of cost-cutting efforts while preserving Marshfield's core services.

"I wish we had easy choices, unfortunately we don't have choices that don't impact our patients, and any time we have choices like this, we all lose," he said. "I realize that, and once again, I'm sorry for it. And I hope we can figure out a way to move forward together."

Therapists at the clubhouse hold hundreds of sessions every week, and the mothers of these kids say these sessions are critical for their well-being and healthy development.

"We just started back at the clubhouse for OT a couple of months ago, and I've already seen improvement in him. If the clubhouse closes, we won't get services," said Brittany Orme.

"He's finally making speech sounds. We've been having some pop-up words, and to think that all the progress that we've been having so far could absolutely be lost," said Krystal Ehlers. 

"She literally looked at me and said, 'mom, how am I going to be okay?' My 8-year-old, who has tried to harm herself, asked me, 'how am I going to be okay and go to school?'" said Rita Gretschmann. 

In an effort to help parents successfully transition services, Marshfield offered a list of nine possible locations. Of the dozen or so parents News 18 spoke with, not one had any confidence they'd be able to use any of the nine suggested locations, citing hurdles like proximity, insurance conflicts, long wait-lists, and just not offering the services they need.

"These are true things. They're all real things. At the same time, what we wanted to do was to make sure that we had placed all of those options out there for our patients that are impacted, so that they can try to use that information to make the choices that best fit their needs," Parkhurst said. 

In search of a better solution, parents started reaching out to their State Senator Romaine Quinn and Representative David Armstrong.

"So, immediately we started calling other providers. I immediately reached out to Marshfield Clinic's lobbyist, and then got the scoop from them that there was no way going forward, and then that's when I reached out to Northlakes Clinic," Quinn said. 

This week, Marshfield announced they are in talks with Northlakes Community Clinic to continue to provide services to the Rice Lake area. For those affected, it's welcome news.

"My initial reaction was relief," Gretschmann said. "I think there will still be a lapse in care, but ultimately, I'm excited. Northlakes is a great clinic, so I'm super excited that they are making this effort. I do wish there was just more communication. Ultimately I think, we got back to humanity in it."

Senator Quinn told News 18 the ideal solution would include Northlakes continuing services in the same space with the same therapists, something Marshfield and Northlakes will need to iron out.

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