Converting the former Rusk County Memorial Hospital into a VA medical facility would serve two purposes. It could be a much needed facility offering medical services to northwoods veterans, and it could give new use to an institutional building that will soon lose its major tenant.

There is no secret Marshfield Clinic is pursuing construction of a new medical center in Ladysmith. When its new facility opens, the former hospital will go dark.

 There is no need for that to happen as there is definitely a need for providing medical care for veterans who served their country in the Armed Forces.

There is a broad consensus in America that veterans should receive healthcare services paid for by the U.S. government, according to a 2018 report entitled, Teaching hospital alternatives for Veterans Health Administration facilities: A Google Maps proximity study. There is less agreement regarding where these services should be provided, the report states.

One practical impediment to using nongovernmental hospitals instead of VA hospitals is distance. That is, unlike what is seen in the case of eye-glasses, where alternative providers can provide their products in every shopping mall in America, replacement facilities to provide inpatient care for non-combat issues such as cancer, coronary artery disease, and arthritis may be simply too far away to serve as practical substitutes.

This is where the former Rusk County Memorial Hospital can almost immediately step in and fill a need. Replacement facilities may be available through private networks, but what happens in places like northern Wisconsin where these facilities may be few and far between?

It also must be kept in mind that the mere presence of a facility is not sufficient proof that a reasonable alternative is at hand, the report states. A valid replacement facility must have the capacity to provide the necessary services; it must deliver these replacement services with high quality and at a fair price; and it must have systems of accountability to ensure that high-quality care will endure.

Such a facility could be located in Ladysmith to meet wellness promises made to military veterans and keep an existing facility in the city working for decades to come. City, county, area veterans and other local officials who are studying this endeavor should be supported.

Ladysmith News editorials are written by news staff.

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