February 18, 2011
Volume 55, Issue 7

Tumult in Madison Snags Budget Adjustment Bill
Medicaid provisions tweaked; Biennial budget bill now delayed

The protestors converging on Madison this week from all across the country (including, now, Jesse Jackson), coupled with the departure of the Senate Democrat caucus for Illinois, has thrown a massive wrench into the Wisconsin budget process.

Up-to-the-minute developments in the growing saga can be found on every cable news channel and Web site, but it is not an overstatement to label Madison as "ground zero" for the now raging debate over public employee unions.

The scene in Madison has delayed passage of the Budget Adjustment Bill (BAB) and today brings news that introduction of the biennial budget bill, slated for early next week, will also be delayed until March 1. Almost completely lost in the escalating standoff is the fact that the BAB contains important provisions related to the state’s funding-strapped health care safety net program, Medicaid.

As reported in The Valued Voice last week, Walker’s BAB fully funds the nearly $140 million Medicaid deficit in FY2011 without cutting enrollment or provider reimbursement—very welcome news. The bill also includes a process whereby DSH will find savings over the coming year through studying key elements of the Medicaid program, developing a plan for changes and reforms, and implementing that plan via administrative rules, rather than legislation.

Before implementation, the Medicaid plan must undergo what is called a "passive review" and, ostensibly, approval by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. The lack of full-blown legislative review has made some nervous given the scope of change envisioned. However, the process is not unprecedented.

In the 2009-11 state budget, Governor Doyle and the Legislature approved a similar administrative process to find some $635 million in Medicaid cuts. Majority Democrats inserted a provision requiring review by the Joint Committee on Finance before a DHS-developed plan to implement the cuts could proceed. But Governor Doyle vetoed the provision, thus excluding the legislature from any review of the cut plan.

"We are anxious to work with the Governor and Legislature to find innovative, well-thought-out ways to deliver cost-effective care, minimize cost-shifting to our state’s employers and maintain Medicaid as a strong safety net for those with no other options," said WHA Executive Vice President Eric Borgerding. "WHA’s team is adept at working in both administrative and legislative venues, and so we are confident our input will be sought, delivered and received. We also believe review and oversight by the Legislature—elected representatives—is very important. The provisions for legislative review in this bill are a welcome change from the last state budget. The Legislature must remain an important and relevant part of this process."

To address some of these concerns, in addition to the Joint Finance Committee review included in the BAB, an amendment adopted earlier this week places a four-year sunset on all the study provisions adopted. WHA fully supports this amendment.

While the BAB’s fate seemingly hangs in the balance of the maelstrom enveloping the Capitol Square, the challenges before Wisconsin will only become more clear when Governor Walker’s 2011-13 biennial budget bill is introduced. Wisconsin faces a projected $3.6 billion deficit ($1.8 billion in Medicaid alone) heading into the next biennium. As noted above, the bill to address that mammoth challenge has been delayed, but regardless of when it is introduced, the cuts necessary to address the projected shortfall will surely be painful.

Governor Walker’s Tuesday, February 22 budget address is still on schedule.

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DHS Secretary Smith Sees Redesign as Viable Alternative to Medicaid Cuts
Smith: "We want to preserve eligibility…and try to find savings."

Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith told the WHA Board at their February 17 meeting in Madison that the recently–released state budget adjustment bill is an attempt to get a jump start on addressing the Medicaid budget shortfall.

"Once you pass the (state budget repair) law, there are all these things that come after, including (working with) CMS," Smith said. "I think in many respects the theme is trying to find alternatives to reducing eligibility. I think everybody knows Wisconsin expanded their Medicaid program, and under PPACA can go back down, but we want to preserve eligibility so if you take that off the table…. you try to find savings."

Smith said Wisconsin is "facing the cliff" of losing the enhanced federal matching monies, so difficult choices must be made.

"You can cut eligibility, you can cut providers or you can cut benefits," Smith explained. "However, there is a fourth choice and that is to redesign the program."

Smith explained that Medicaid is not "one" single program, instead is it "several" programs. He said the general approach of the Department will be to identify the various populations that are served by Medicaid and then design a program to meet their specific health needs.

A reduction in the current cap on state level provider taxes is one of the provisions in President Obama’s budget. While Smith admits he is "not a fan of provider taxes," he said he recognizes that the state and Wisconsin hospitals have a history with the hospital assessment and "you can’t just upset that." However, he said, in the long run he does not feel it is a good way to finance the Medicaid program. It’s an issue Smith said he wants to work with Wisconsin hospitals on in the future.

The current budget situation in Madison is a challenge. "The state is in tough times," Smith said. "Every state is at a critical juncture in health care as there is a general ‘unknown’ out there as we move toward PPACA. What will employers do—and what does Wisconsin have at risk here? We could have an insurance health exchange picking winners and losers."

Smith warned that if Wisconsin doesn’t come up with solutions to health care costs, "someone else will impose it on us. I shudder at the notion that there will be a ‘super board’ making decisions in Washington for everybody," he added. "There are a lot of smart people but no one is smart enough to run 20 percent of our economy so we have to come up with our own solutions. I am a believer that if you give people access to information, they will make the best decision."

Smith said he believes that DHS could have a role as a "convener" to get people to the table, discuss the issues, and get to a decision.

"These are not going to be imposed solutions from Madison. I don’t want to run your hospital. But if we can serve in a capacity that brings people together and expands the conversation beyond just hospitals, I am happy to do that," he concluded.

WHA’s State Budget Priorities: Preserve Medicaid and Hospital Assessment; Minimize Cost Shift

With the state budget set to be introduced by Governor Scott Walker on March 1, WHA Executive Vice President Eric Borgerding articulated WHA’s priorities are to:

Borgerding said the state faces two significant challenges, a $134 million GPR shortfall in the FY11 Medicaid budget and a $1.8 billion GPR shortfall in the 2011-2013 Medicaid budget due in large part to the massive growth in enrollment in Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.

Borgerding said WHA has illustrated the impact that the hospital assessment has had on the Medicaid budget and on cost shifting to legislators and policy makers to ensure that they understand its importance to not only hospitals, but also to the state budget. In spite of the hospital assessment, Wisconsin continues to have the second lowest Medicaid reimbursement rate for hospitals in the county.

"Wisconsin has ‘paid’ for their Medicaid program by ‘not paying for it,’’ according to Borgerding. "They have cost-shifted that burden to hospitals and employers."

Quality Improvement Act Brings Long-Awaited Improvements to Peer Review Law

It was a long wait, but Wisconsin’s peer review laws were finally modernized and strengthened with the passage of the Quality Improvement Act (QIA) this year. Signed into law by Governor Walker late in January, Borgerding said the QIA will:

Borgerding recognized WHA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Laura Leitch for her outstanding work on the bill.

Federal Health Reform: A Status Update

Borgerding described Governor Walker’s newly-created Office of Free Market Health Care. The aim is to conditionally develop a Wisconsin health benefit exchange that utilizes a consumer-driven, free market approach. The office will explore all opportunities and offer alternative approaches to a federally-mandated exchange. DHS Secretary Smith, in testimony in Washington, described the devastating fiscal impact that the health care reform law would have in Wisconsin. He said 46 percent of the people that would move into a publicly-subsidized plan currently have private coverage. In addition, PPACA will cost Wisconsin taxpayers $560 million a year with little increase in coverage. In short, the cost of health reform exceed its benefits in Wisconsin

WHA Board Approves WHA 2011 Goals

WHA President Steve Brenton shared WHA’s 2011 goals with the Board and thanked them for their input into the goal-setting process. The goals provide a high-level roadmap for the new year. WHA staff uses the results of the member survey to ensure that the goals closely align with WHA member priorities. Brenton said WHA’s highest priority is to continue to strive to improve the Association’s value to its members.

The 2011 WHA member survey was sent to CEOs this week. Brenton encouraged members to participate in the survey as the input is used to refine WHA’s strategic plan. The last member survey revealed that members were deeply concerned about physician workforce issues, which as a result, has been elevated as a WHA priority.

WHA Senior Vice President Brian Potter reviewed the unaudited financial statements for both WHA and the WHA Information Center. Potter said both organizations carry strong balance sheets. WHA’s positive financial results in 2010 were driven in large part by good investment returns.

Health Reform Drives New Quality Reporting Requirements

WHA Chief Quality Officer Kelly Court presented an overview of the quality reporting requirements and pay-for-performance standards that are contained in the federal health reform law. Court said there is a definite move away from pay-for-reporting toward pay-for-performance, also known as value-based purchasing.

Court also previewed a proposed CMS National Patient Safety Initiative which is aimed at reducing harm caused in hospitals to patients and reducing hospital readmissions. As part of the new program the CMS Innovation Center will test and spread quality improvement approaches, develop collaborative networks, and seek to increase patient engagement. CMS is proposing increasing payment penalties beginning at 6 percent in FY 2013 and increasing to as high as 9 percent in FY 2015 for hospitals that have high rates of harm, infections and readmissions. Further, CMS seeks payment alignment among Medicare, Medicaid, employers and health plans.

New Measures Proposed for CheckPoint

The Board approved adding the following eight new measures to CheckPoint in the second quarter of 2011:

Court said there would be a change in WHA’s quality infrastructure to better position the Association to meet the challenges that are facing hospitals in the public reporting and quality improvement arenas. The Quality Steering Committee will change functions and become a forum for collaboration on improvement initiatives in Wisconsin. The WHA Measures Team will assume primary responsibility for proposing and developing measures, while the Council on Medical and Professional Affairs will approve recommended measures and forward these to the Board.

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President Obama Releases 2012 Budget
Congress still dealing with 2011 budget

This week President Obama released his FY 2012 budget. Of significant concern to state Medicaid programs and hospitals across the nation is a provision reducing the threshold for state Medicaid provider taxes. The phase-down begins in FY 2015, dropping the allowable limit from 6 percent to 4.5 percent. In FY 2016, the limit drops to 4 percent then moves to 3.5 percent in FY 17. The provision is estimated to save $18 billion ostensibly to help pay for a two-year fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate, the long-maligned physician reimbursement formula.

"The provider tax proposal won’t affect Wisconsin’s hospital assessment, although other states will see this as problematic," said WHA President Steve Brenton. "But we are pleased to see address of the physician payment issue, albeit for only two years."

The proposed FY 2012 budget also includes:

The Republican budget proposal is not due out until April. To view the President’s proposed budget document, log onto: www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/budget.pdf.

At the same time, Congress is also working to address the current (FY 2011) budget and unveiled a revised Continuing Resolution (HR 1) late last Friday, February 11, to fund government programs and operations. The revised version reduces government spending by roughly $100 billion below the President’s budget request.

In comparison to other programs, health care programs are relatively unscathed under HR 1. The legislation also does not seek to de-fund the health care reform law, the Accountable Care Act, but amendments to the bill will be proposed that would do so. The House anticipates finishing the Continuing Resolution this week with the Senate possibly taking it up later in February. However, the current Continuing Resolution expires in early March so Congress may be forced to extend it briefly before finalizing HR 1.

Log onto the House Appropriations Committee Web site for a summary: http://appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=261&Month=2&Year=2011

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Please Complete WHA’s 2011 EHR/Meaningful Use Survey

Reminder: Please complete the WHA HIT survey that was sent to hospital CFOs and IT professionals. The survey will provide information that will help WHA in its federal advocacy efforts to maintain promised EHR incentive payments in upcoming Federal budget bills. The survey must be completed by February 23. Direct questions to Matthew Stanford at mstanford@wha.org or Jenny Boese at jboese@wha.org or call 608-274-1820.

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President’s Column: Member Survey Provides Foundation for WHA’s Future Program Priorities

Hospital and health system leaders this past week received an email announcement and link related to a confidential member survey that will allow members to rate WHA’s current value, effectiveness and identify issue priorities for future action.

WHA staff and Board members take our members’ opinions seriously. That’s why we specifically ask you every couple of years for your thoughts and input on how well we are doing—and what more can be done to address your needs going forward.

The collective opinions and ratings will be reviewed by staff and by the WHA Board. Your input will be funneled into our strategic planning process. And finally, we look forward to sharing the findings directly with you in a couple of weeks.

In the past decade WHA’s member survey was the catalyst that helped launch our performance improvement and public reporting initiatives (CheckPoint and PricePoint), beefed up direct member involvement in Medicaid rate setting and payment policy work, advanced major initiatives to address the looming physician workforce challenges, defined member priorities related to health reform initiatives, and engaged in efforts to reward value-based health care delivery.

Our survey will take 10-15 minutes. We appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts.

Steve Brenton

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Register Today for 2011 Advocacy Day
April 27, 2011 *** Monona Terrace, Madison

Make an impact in Madison by attending Advocacy Day on April 27. Register your hospital team today, including your senior leaders, trustees and volunteers, for this important event.


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Memorial Service for Warren Von Ehren Feb. 21

A memorial service celebrating Warren’s life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, February 21, 2011, in Resurrection Chapel at Oakwood Village West, 6205 Mineral Point Road, Madison. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions may be made to the Warren R. and Mary L. Von Ehren Memorial Scholarship, c/o Bellin College of Nursing, 3201 Eaton Road, Green Bay, WI 54311 or Cress Funeral and Cremation Service, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison, WI 53705.

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Med School Deans Respond to Legislative Study Committee Members’ Concerns

The Deans of Wisconsin’s two medical schools appeared a second time before the Legislative Council Study Committee on Health Care Access held February 14. WHA Chair-elect Sandy Anderson, president of St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, represents WHA on the Committee. The Deans were asked to respond to continuing concerns from Committee members about the medical school’s role in addressing the shortage of physicians in Wisconsin. The Committee’s concerns center on whether the medical schools are willing to increase the number of students that they educate each year.

Robert Golden, MD, Dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, spoke on a wide range of issues related to physician supply in Wisconsin, and concluded his remarks by indicating that the UW program could incrementally increase capacity if two conditions were met: the program was fully funded and there were enough quality clinical experiences for students. Dean Golden suggested that Wisconsin be more aggressive in recruiting physicians from out-of-state programs.

The Medical College of Wisconsin, represented by John Raymond, MD, president, Ken Simons, MD, and Allen David, MD, repeated their offer to raise the percentage of Wisconsin students admitted to their program if state contributions were increased to support those students.

Both medical schools reminded the Committee that participation in a state-based residency program is a greater influence on location of practice than location of medical education and encouraged the group to work toward more residencies as a primary goal. They also indicated that support of their programs would be a more efficient use of resources than creating a third medical education program in Wisconsin.

The committee also reviewed, revised and forwarded five proposed pieces of legislation:

WLC: 0058/2, expanding pharmacists’ ability to administer influenza vaccine to individuals age 6 and up.

WLC: 0066/2, creating the requirement that persons seeking renewal of a license as a dentist, dental hygienist, physician, psychologist, physical therapist, physician assistant, pharmacist or clinical social worker complete a workforce survey.

WLC: 0091/1, relating to dental licensing exceptions for dental residents and interns.

WLC: 0096/1, relating to duties of local health departments

WLC: 0097/1, requiring the repayment of state aid by medical school graduates who fail to practice in Wisconsin

"WHA believes more students from Wisconsin need to be graduated from our medical schools and trained in expanded Wisconsin-based residency programs if we are going to have any chance of addressing the physician shortage crisis," said Chuck Shabino, MD, WHA senior medical advisor. "The concerns voiced by the Committee echo throughout our hospital community and we are appreciative of their work."

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"Municipal Advisor" Rule Could Impact 501(c)3 Hospitals

On January 6, 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued proposed rules for the registration of municipal advisors. The proposed rules were part of the SEC’s implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act which President Obama signed into law on July 21, 2010. As part of the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress amended Section 15B of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to make it unlawful for municipal advisors to provide certain advice to, or solicit municipal entities or certain other persons without registering with the Commission. The proposed rule provides specific information on the registration requirements and outlines activities appropriate for municipal advisors.

Of concern is that the proposed SEC rule extends the definition of "municipal advisor" to include a broader group than the consulting, financial advisory, and investment banking firms one would expect. The proposed definition of municipal advisor includes a person (who is not a municipal entity or employee of a municipal entity) that:

The catch is in the term obligated person. The SEC provided guidance that the term should be used as it is in Rule 15c2-12. Rule 15c2-12 is the rule governing disclosure in tax-exempt bond issues and applies to conduit borrowers and the officers thereof. Entities acting as conduit borrowers including nonprofit hospitals, long-term care providers and other 501(c)3 organizations are obligated persons under Rule 15c2-12. Individuals providing advice to or on the behalf of these entities may be considered municipal advisors. After review of the proposed rule several law firms have issued comments suggesting that the current definition of "municipal advisor" may include appointed board members and key employees (such as officers of the organization) while elected Board members are specifically excluded.

If approved as currently proposed, the rule would require obligated persons to register with the SEC as a municipal advisor and to provide disclosure of personal information and employment history, information regarding past felony charges or convictions, violations of securities rules and regulation, civil judicial actions, settlements involving the violation of investment or municipal advisor statutes or regulations, information regarding consumer complaints or arbitrations regarding investment-related matters, and information regarding bankruptcy or similar proceeds in the last ten years. Additionally, obligated persons will need to comply with certain other requirements restricting political contributions and maintaining certain records for a period of at least five years.

WHA and AHA have submitted comments on our concerns over the possible resulting effects of the proposed rule. Most notably, the possibility that the organization will be unable to attract board members willing to serve if required to register. Not only is it anticipated that potential board members will be reluctant to disclose the information required (and meet the activities deemed appropriate for a municipal advisor) but there is significant concern over the legal responsibility to investors and to the SEC that may arise if designated as an advisor on financial matters. Current board members and many officers that are aware of the proposed rule have voiced similar concerns.

The SEC is taking comments on the proposed rule through February 22, 2011. You may view comments previously submitted to the SEC by other organizations by visiting the SEC’s Web site at: www.sec.gov/comments/s7-45-10/s74510.shtml. Additionally, you may download a complete version of the proposed rule from www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/2010/34-63576fr.pdf.

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Grassroots Spotlight: St. Vincent in Green Bay Hosts Freshman Representative

Rep. Chad Weininger, R-4th State Assembly District, visited St. Vincent Hospital on February 14 to learn about health care issues and tour the hospital.

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AHA’s March 14 Teleconference Focuses on Planning for ICD-10 Implementation

On March 14, the American Hospital Association (AHA) is offering a teleconference featuring two hospital chief information officers (CIOs) who are taking a lead role in their organizations’ transition to ICD-10. Hear why they have devoted their time to work with their organizations’ HIM and other clinical departments to prioritize ICD-10 implementation.

ICD-10 team members, HIM directors, coding managers and professionals, quality and compliance professionals, IT/IS managers and other senior level managers with HIM or IS responsibility should consider participating. Attendees will gain a practical understanding of the requirements for the ICD-10 planning and impact analysis stage, be better equipped to anticipate challenges that may be encountered and learn strategies to overcome them, and learn how to organize an ICD-10 implementation team and plan the team’s activities.

This teleconference, entitled "Wait at Your Own Risk: Why ICD-10 Needs to Be Your Organization’s Top Priority," will be offered by AHA on March 14 from 1:00 – 2:45 p.m. CST. For more information or to register, visit www.krm.com/ahacentraloffice or call 800-775-7654. AHA members can participate for $195 per connection; non-members can participate for $265 per connection.

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Nurse Leaders to Gather at W-ONE Annual Convention, April 6-8 in WI Dells

The Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Executives (W-ONE) will host its annual convention for nurse leaders and managers on April 6-8 in Wisconsin Dells. With a focus on its theme of "Positive Principles for Improvement," the convention will open with a keynote presentation from Jo Manion, PhD, a nationally-recognized speaker, award-winning author and senior management consultant, who offers a breadth of experience combined with practical and creative approaches to organizational and professional issues.

The agenda will also include a variety of timely concurrent session topics and the opportunity to network with other nurse leaders.

In an effort to support the W-ONE membership, the W-ONE Board has decided to once again offer reduced registration fees for the 2011 event. The discounted prices are reflected in the convention brochure, which is included in this week’s packet, and available online at www.w-one.org/eventlisting.aspx.

The convention will be held at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells. You do not need to be an RN or a member of W-ONE to attend. Anyone who has responsibilities for leading and managing RNs will benefit from the educational agenda and is welcome. For registration questions, contact Lisa Littel at 608-274-1820 or email llittel@wha.org.

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WSHHRA Annual Conference for Human Resource Professionals, April 13-15

The Wisconsin Society for Healthcare Human Resource Administration (WSHHRA) will host its annual conference for human resource professionals April 13-15, at Glacier Canyon Lodge at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

The 2011 conference will address issues related to organizational culture. Keynote Vicki Hess, RN, MS, CSP will focus on leadership’s role in employee engagement. Also this year, the WSHHRA planning committee has partnered with the Health Care Alliances throughout the state to brainstorm, share best practices and discuss opportunities for continued collaboration.

Human resource leaders are closely watching the activities in Madison surrounding Governor Walker’s budget proposal. This conference will provide a great opportunity to hear the highly-rated, annual legislative and legal updates that are part of the agenda.

Anyone who has human resource responsibilities in a health care organization will benefit from the educational agenda and is welcome to attend. An ‘early bird’ discount is available for registrations received by March 4, and group discounts for three or more from the same facility are also available. In addition, the program has been submitted to HRCI for continuing education/recertification credit.

The brochure and registration form are included in this week’s packet and on the WSHHRA Web site at http://my.ashhra.org/MYASHHRA/Wisconsin/Home/Default.aspx.

For registration questions, contact Lisa Littel at 608-274-1820 or email llittel@wha.org.

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Member News: Mary Starmann-Harrison Named President/CEO of HSHS

Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) announced the appointment of Mary Starmann-Harrison as the new HSHS president and chief executive officer, beginning in April. Starmann-Harrison was WHA Board chair in 2006.

Starmann-Harrison is currently serving as regional president and CEO of SSM Health Care of Wisconsin. SSM Health Care of Wisconsin operates St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, and St. Clare Hospital & Health Services in Baraboo, among other health care facilities in south central Wisconsin.

Starmann-Harrison began her career in 1979 as a registered nurse in the emergency department and has served in health care management since 1980. She previously served as a CEO for Tenet Physician Services where she was responsible for the management of approximately 300 physician practices in the Western region of the United States. Prior to that, she held various leadership roles—including CEO—for St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. She is also a Fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives.

Over the past three decades Starmann-Harrison has successfully led numerous quality initiatives that have been recognized at the state and national level. She was part of the SSM Health Care team that received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2002—the first health care entity to receive this prestigious award. SSM Health Care of Wisconsin hospitals and health care facilities have also received multiple Wisconsin Forward Awards for quality during Mary’s tenure as CEO.

"Mary has been a terrific Wisconsin health care leader and I’m pleased she will continue to have a strong Wisconsin connection with her future position," said WHA President Steve Brenton, noting that HSHS sponsors five Wisconsin hospitals.

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Showing the Flu No "Mercy"
Mercy Health System attains 81 percent flu vaccination rate systemwide

It all starts in early June—months before the flu season even begins—for Mercy Health System in Janesville. Mercy’s multidisciplinary flu committee meets in the early summer months to develop new strategies to increase their employee flu immunization rate across the health system’s 60 clinics and three hospitals in Wisconsin and Illinois. What may set Mercy Hospital’s strategy apart for others?

"We have two retired nurses that return every year to administer our employee flu vaccinations," Mercy Hospital’s Sandra Gindhart, RN, employee health supervisor said. "They really get the job done."

The nurses lend enthusiasm and drive to the process while encouraging employees to get their flu vaccination to help create a healthy environment for patients, visitors and for their own families.

Gindhart said that Mercy feels strongly about immunizing its employees so they established this as a system-wide goal so everyone works on achieving it. A report is compiled weekly for leadership to let them know which of their employees have not been vaccinated. Supervisors personally encourage their employees to be immunized. The nurses’ efforts, along with the leadership report and a weekly calendar of flu clinic locations, combined to push Mercy Health System’s immunization rate to 81 percent systemwide during the 2009-2010 flu season.

Another factor that helped Mercy join the "80 percent Club "was the use of an incentive. Employees who were immunized were entered into a raffle to win paid vacation time—known as "Well Days." "The well days are always well received. Your name stays in the drawing and your chance of winning goes up if you get the flu vaccination early," Gindhart said.

Even with these incentives, Mercy Hospital still has their challenges and the H1N1 scare last year was one of them. Nevertheless, with both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations available last year, Mercy planned ahead and had "units" of nurses ready to travel to all the participating hospitals to immunize the other partners in clinics.

Getting the nurses there is half the battle, though. Convincing employees seems to be the most difficult part of the process. Gindhart says that some employees are hesitant about getting the flu vaccine.

"Some people need to vent and talk their way through it and once we talked to them and addressed their concerns, they went ahead and got it," Gindhart said.

Gindhart believes that how employees are approached about being immunized is specific to the culture and values of the hospital and to the region of the state, which creates a more personal experience that positively correlates with employees’ willingness to be immunized.

When all else fails, Gindhart reminds the health care employees why it’s so important.

"Vaccines are such a small inconvenience, people should appreciate that we have this vaccine available and that there are other places where people are dying of preventable diseases due to a lack of standard vaccines," said Gindhart.

Is there any better reason to be immunized?

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Hospitals Receive National Award for Organ Donation Efforts

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Organ Transplantation Breakthrough Collaborative recently recognized 12 Wisconsin hospitals for their work to improve organ donation rates. They were among 307 hospitals in the country who received this national honor.

To receive this recognition, hospitals must achieve a 75 percent donation rate, meaning that at each of these hospitals at least three-fourths of the people who were eligible to be an organ donor became one.

The UW Health Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) had 11 hospitals in their federally-designated service area, which includes counties in Illinois and Michigan, that were eligible to receive the Medal of Honor. The Wisconsin Donor Network (WDN) had three hospitals in their service area honored. The UW Health OPO and the WDN were two of eight organ procurement organizations to win a Gold Medal of Honor.

In Wisconsin, almost 1,700 people are currently on the organ waiting list with 40 percent under the age of 50, and 31 percent under the age of 18.

"Our relationships with our hospital partners are imperative to our state’s success," says Jill Ellefson, executive director at the UW Health OPO. "Without each hospital’s commitment to both ongoing education and sensitive patient communication, the state’s organ donation rates would decline and many more people would die while waiting for an organ."

Jacquelyn Fredrick, president/CEO of the BloodCenter of Wisconsin added, "The best practices of our hospitals are setting new standards for hospitals all over the country from which to learn."

The 12 Wisconsin hospitals recognized for their organ donation efforts are:

Aspirus Wausau Hospitals Inc., Wausau                  Bronze

Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, Milwaukee            Silver

Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Milwaukee      Silver

Gundersen Lutheran Hospital, La Crosse                  Silver

Luther Hospital, Eau Claire                                      Silver

Sacred Heart Hospital, Eau Claire                            Silver

Ministry-Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Marshfield             Bronze

St. Mary’s Hospital, Madison                                  Silver

St. Vincent Hospital, Green Bay                              Silver

Theda Clark Regional Medical Center, Neenah          Silver

Waukesha Memorial Hospital, Waukesha                 Gold

UW Hospitals & Clinics, Madison                             Silver

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Wisconsin Hospitals Community Benefits: Access to High Quality Health Services

Hospitals do what they can to move health care services out of the clinical setting into the heart of the community. Community health screenings and education classes help raise awareness of small, and sometimes, big steps that individuals can take to improve their health. When people learn more about how their lifestyle decisions affect their health, they make changes that ultimately lead to better health, which raises the health status of the entire community.

Senior Health, Wellness & Safety Fair

The health and safety of older adults is important to Memorial Health Center. Each year the health center participates in the Taylor County Commission on Aging’s Senior Health, Wellness & Safety Fair to provide education and free screenings to benefit this population.

This year (2010), Memorial Health Center staff presented information and answered questions about mammography and joint replacements, gave out free medication bags and tips on medication safety, and performed blood pressure screenings and Diabetes Risk Assessments.

Of the nearly 250 people undergoing the Diabetes Risk Assessment and its blood glucose screening, five had results suggestive of undiagnosed diabetes, 25 had results in the pre-diabetes range, and 15 of those with pre-existing diabetes had blood sugars that were above optimal. Results from the assessment were provided immediately to all screening participants. Those with results outside the normal range were advised to see a doctor for additional testing.

Approximately 600 older adults and their families attend this event each year.

Memorial Health Center – An Aspirus Partner, Medford

A health fair especially for seniors

The annual Aurora Visiting Nurse Association Shoo the Flu and Pneumonia, Too clinic offered at the Southwest YMCA in Greenfield draws mostly seniors.

So Jeanne Clark, supervisor of women’s health and community education at nearby Aurora West Allis Medical Center, knew she would have a captive audience for disseminating other important health information. She organized a senior health fair around it.

More than 70 seniors attended and received free foot screenings and education, blood pressure screenings and heart health risk assessments. Additionally, they were able to participate in presentations by Aurora physicians, nurses and therapists on healthy aging, prostate health, digestive and colon health, falls prevention and spirituality, presented by an Aurora Parish Nurse.

Aurora West Allis Medical Center

Family Health Fair: Wellness at all ages

Fort HealthCare has taken a stance that community wellness should be a priority of our organization and to that end has created a health fair with the entire family in mind. The inaugural Family Health Fair was held August 21 and brought in over 200 participants from Jefferson County and the surrounding area.

Kids were able to participate in Big Wheel races with helmets provided by Fort HealthCare, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department partnered with local businesses to offer fingerprinting. Parents appreciated the access to family practice physicians to answer common health questions and then have a meet-and-greet for those trying to select a family doctor. In addition, exercise class demonstrations for Zumba and tai chi were available for those looking for new ways to become more fit. Families could make healthy snacks like trail mix and learn about active play.

This free event also included health screenings for everyone in attendance, including children. Screenings offered were BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. Over 30 area organizations participated with booths and representation including the American Heart Association, UW Cancer Center, Jefferson County Literacy Council, Uniting Latino Families, Free Community Dental Clinic and People Against Domestic Abuse, to name a few.

Fort HealthCare, Fort Atkinson

Reduced rate sports physicals

Each summer the Luxemburg Medical Clinic, an affiliate of St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, offers reduced rate sports physicals to high school athletes. In the small rural community of Luxemburg, 50 students took advantage of this year’s offering. The sports physical includes an evaluation of the patient’s height and weight, patient/family health history, patient’s development, social concerns. Heart and lungs are checked. Physicians make sure there are no joint injuries or pain, episodes of syncope (fainting/dizziness) and no chest pains or heart palpitations.

Sports physicals are required by WIAA, camps, etc. in order to ensure a child is physically able to participate in the designated sport or activity. Unfortunately, in today’s economy there are increasing numbers of families with no insurance or high deductibles with limited health coverage. It is difficult for these families to pay full price out of pocket. By providing the physicals at a nearly $80 discount, the hospital and clinic make it possible for more high school students to participate in extra-curricular activities and take advantage of the health benefits of sports.

St. Vincent Hospital, Green Bay

Free osteoporosis screening

Osteoporosis is the name for the condition when bones become weak and brittle. Any bone can be affected, but of special concern are fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist.

Because an estimated 10 million Americans currently suffer from this disease and nearly 34 million others are at risk for developing it, Memorial Health Center offered a free osteoporosis screening for adults as part of the Medford Chamber of Commerce Home & Business Expo. Each year, approximately 5,000 people attend this three-day event.

Memorial Health Center Imaging Services staff conducted the screenings using a portable bone density scanner. Those taking advantage of the free screening received immediate results as to the likelihood of their having osteoporosis or of developing the disease.

Memorial Health Center – An Aspirus Partner, Medford


Submit community benefit stories to Mary Kay Grasmick, editor, at mgrasmick@wha.org.

Read more about hospitals connecting with their communities at www.WiServePoint.org.

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