WHA Board Holds Special Meeting; DHS Sec. Palm Gives COVID-19 Update

March 19, 2020

WHA’s Board of Directors held a special meeting Wednesday afternoon by webinar to  discuss the latest news on Wisconsin’s COVID-19 virus situation and share observations and current challenges hospitals and health systems are facing. WHA staff updated the board on efforts pertaining to current and ongoing priorities.

The in-depth discussion focused on a number of immediate and continuing priorities, including testing for COVID-19, WHA’s actions to request immediately-needed waivers from both the state and federal governments, the operations of the state’s Health Emergency Readiness Coalitions (HERCs), current availability and projected need for personal protective equipment (PPE), challenges for health care workers to obtain child care and WHA’s strategy for engaging state and federal lawmakers to help assist hospitals with current and anticipated needs.

The board also discussed the immediate need to amplify public communication and education of the public on critical issues such as the need for social distancing, the  challenges health care faces with current COVID-19 materials supply and distribution, and why some elective procedures and appointments are being postponed or cancelled. As a part of the effort, WHA today issued a press release highlighting how the public can help make sure their health care workforce is there when needed most.  WHA’s messaging echoed that of Governor Tony Evers, who also today appealed to the public to take important precautions via radio, press release and social media.

DHS Sec. Andrea Palm, other state officials give update and take input Later in the meeting a host of high-level state government officials joined the call by phone, including Department of Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm, DHS Dept. Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk, Gov. Evers Chief of Staff Maggie Gau, Lt. Colonel G. David Brown from the Wisconsin National Guard, Department of Administration Dept. Secretary Chris Patton and Dept. of Children and Families Assistant Secretary Danielle Melfi.

Sec. Palm led off the conversation with an update on the latest news about COVID-19’s spread in Wisconsin, including the first jump in the number of positive cases into triple digits. She described the efforts the state is making to obtain additional virus testing kits and current statistics regarding the testing capacities of the two state labs and private labs in the state. Many board members shared their experiences in collecting and delivering samples to the labs, and the challenges health care faces due to the serious constriction of testing elements and distribution of new supplies.

DCF’s Melfi shared the latest efforts her department is spearheading in dealing with the child care issue, acknowledging the priority of ensuring health care workers can find proper child care options for their children. Board members emphasized how important a priority this is, and how more widespread child care options can help avoid exacerbating an already difficult workforce shortage.

Lt. Col. Brown provided his perspective on how the Wisconsin National Guard is ramping up planning for infrastructure and staffing should a surge occur, and how the Guard is already facilitating the delivery of COVID-19 testing supplies and PPEs arriving from the Strategic National Stockpile.


This story originally appeared in the March 19, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter