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Town of Summit and Aurora Health Care challenge Waukesha County Board decision

Monday, May 23, 2005

Aurora Health Care today joined the Town of Summit in challenging a recent Waukesha County Board decision that blocked construction of a new medical center in the town.

“We made a promise to our 40,000 patients in western Waukesha County that we will provide for them a 21st century medical center, and we intend to keep that promise,” said Ed Howe, president of Aurora.  “The people of this area deserve nothing short of the best facilities and best care.”

The Town of Summit and Aurora together filed a lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking to overturn a vote by the Waukesha County Board on April 26.  That day the board voted to reject the land use and zoning changes the town and Aurora had sought for the medical center project.

The civil complaint says that county supervisors strayed far from land use considerations and based their decision on factors like health care costs, competition and the need for additional hospital capacity.  In doing so, the complaint says, the supervisors overstepped their authority.

The lawsuit asks a judge to declare the County Board’s vote to be void and to allow the Town of Summit’s land use and zoning decisions to stand.

After studying the proposal for nearly eight months, the Summit Town Board voted unanimously on Dec. 2, 2004, to approve the medical center project, but the project also required county approval.

The professional planners who are part of the county’s own Department of Parks and Land Use thoroughly reviewed all aspects of the project and then issued a report recommending that the County Board approve it.  In its report, the department concluded:  “The creation and implementation of a development plan has been and should continue to be strictly related to land use matters, and in this case we have shown that land use issues are not a significant factor upon which to deny this request.”

The Waukesha County Corporation Counsel also advised the county supervisors to base their decision on land use considerations, saying in an opinion: “A county board lacks statutory authority to sit as a local cost containment committee, judging the expansion requests of hospitals with the purpose of controlling costs in the health care industry or setting rates for hospitals in the community.  Likewise, a county board has no statutory authority to engage in an analysis of ‘health care considerations’ with the express purpose or explicit intent of restricting market entry or protecting county health care providers from competition.”

Despite this advice from its own lawyers and professional planning staff, the Waukesha County Board voted against the proposed medical center, embracing the arguments of ProHealth Care Inc.  ProHealth, which dominates Waukesha County’s health care marketplace, had conducted a vigorous, year-long campaign to block competition.

The complaint says: “Despite the explicit, written advice of the Waukesha County Corporation Counsel that they could not consider whether there was a need for another hospital in the county, and that they could not consider whether a new hospital would affect health care costs, and that they could not consider the competitive impact on ProHealth of an additional hospital in the county, many of the supervisors who voted against Aurora’s Rezoning Request made comments at the meeting blatantly demonstrating that the denial was based on such illegal grounds,” the complaint says.

The physicians and staff of Aurora’s Wilkinson Medical Clinic continue to look forward to the many benefits a new medical center will bring.

“This is all about enhancing the care and service we provide to our patients,” said Kristin Simons, M.D., a family practice physician at Wilkinson and a third-generation resident of the Town of Summit.  “There remains strong support for this project in my town and in the other communities in this area, and we hope to be able to move ahead with it soon.”

Wilkinson Medical Clinic has been serving the people of western Waukesha County since 1893.  The clinic joined Aurora Health Care in 1997.  Wilkinson Medical Clinic has locations in Oconomowoc, Hartland, Pewaukee, Delafield, Wales and Dousman.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of care. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 80 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

To view the legal complaint, click here.

To view the Town of Summmit news release, click here.

Contact: Jeff Squire

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