A longtime Milaca medical provider does not support returning to the community with an express care clinic.

That’s the word from an executive summary of the Milaca Healthcare Project released at the end of April.

M Health Fairview closed its Milaca clinic in December 2020. The clinic has been operated by M Health Fairview in the site of the former Milaca hospital for more than three decades.

Since December, the Milaca community has been seeking a local alternative to receiving its primary medical care at Fairview Northland Hospital and its adjoining clinics, located almost 15 miles from Milaca in the city of Princeton.

But according to the executive summary of the Milaca Healthcare Project, Dr. Jeffrey Norman, vice president of medical practice for the region, and the M Health medical team shared that they do not believe an express care clinic is the best solution for receiving medical care in Milaca. That’s because M Health Fairview officials say an express care clinic has limitations, according to the executive summary.

Instead, M Health officials believe a virtual care clinic accessed over the internet or with a cellular telephone connection would work best for the Milaca community.

“A virtual clinic with targeted services such as lab, blood pressure, immunizations, etc., would allow flexibility for community-specific needs to be met,” the summary states.

M Health Fairview officials have expressed an interest in working with the Milaca community to identify specific community health care needs as they assess the possibility of developing a virtual care clinic to best meet the community’s needs, the summary states.

A group of Milaca stakeholders made up of city, county, chamber of commerce and Elim Care representatives — along with M Health Fairview — commissioned an extensive survey in February and March of 2021 that took a look at the medical needs and practices of Milaca residents.

There were 584 people who responded to the study.

Seventy percent of the respondents stated they would utilize an express clinic in Milaca in the absence of a full-service clinic. However, M Health Fairview does not appear to support that alternative to its former full-service Milaca clinic. Of the survey respondents, 37.4% said they would not utilize increased internet access to access virtual health care. Another 26.7% said they maybe would. There were 35.84% of the respondents who stated they would support access to virtual health care.

When asked if they would support shared computers with high-speed internet located in a central Milaca location to conduct virtual care visits, just 11.13% of survey respondents noted they would support such care. There were 68.22% of respondents who said “no” to such a care alternative, while 20.65% stated “maybe.”

Fifty-four percent of the respondents said they would utilize a mobile vehicular unit for basic services such as lab work, immunizations and blood pressure checks, survey results show.

The Milaca stakeholders group and M Health Fairview officials are meeting again this month to further discuss the community’s needs and how medical services will be provided,

The survey showed that more than 66% of the respondents (383 people) received their primary medical care in Milaca during the past 5-10 years. Forty-nine percent of those respondents also indicated that they received primary medical care in Princeton. Others reported receiving primary care in St. Cloud (23%), Mora (4%), Onamia (6.4%) and from the Veterans Administration (4%).

Princeton (62%) and St. Cloud (37%) led as the locations where respondents received specialty care over the past five to 10 years. Thirty percent of the respondents reported receiving specialty care in Milaca.

Nearly 63% of survey respondents indicated they expected to receive their primary and specialty care in Princeton over the next one to two years. Nearly 30% stated St. Cloud would be their future destination for primary and specialty care.


Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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