ARCADIA, Wis. - The only around-the-clock health care facility in Arcadia will end operations by the end of March, Franciscan Skemp executives said Tuesday, announcing the end of hospital-based care. The decision will affect nearly 20 staff members, as the Wisconsin-based Mayo Clinic subsidiary closes the maternity, emergency and in-patient care wards that serve about 7,000 people in the surrounding area.

A lack of patients and flat population growth forced company executives to examine the location's financial viability, eventually leading to the cuts, said John Nemec, vice president of regional practices for Franciscan Skemp.

The hospital portion is also known as St. Joseph's.

The nursing home and clinic in the Arcadia facility will stay open, but Franciscan Skemp President Dr. Tim Johnson said after-hour care will become an issue for the community.

"This is a loss," he said. "A loss to the community and also a loss to the dedicated staff."

The hospital sees fewer than five emergency patients a day, on average, and its maternity ward delivers less than seven babies a month, according to company officials. Some of the women getting maternity care in Arcadia will have to be transferred to another location before they give birth, Johnson said.

Citizens are anxious about losing their hospital, Mayor John Kimmel said.

A group formed a year ago to find alternatives when news of Franciscan Skemp's evaluation started, but nothing certain has come out of the meetings, Kimmel said.

"While it may be a business decision for somebody else, it's very real when it comes to our community," Kimmel said. "Inevitably accidents happen. That's why they call it an emergency."

News of the closure came on the same day Mayo officials announced a $370 million investment in new cancer treatment facilities in Rochester, Minn., and Phoenix, Ariz.

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