March 1, 2013
Volume 57, Issue 9

Hospitals Brace for Cuts as Congress Fails to Stop Two Percent Medicare Cut
Hospitals expect to see payment reductions for services provided on or after April 1

It seemed to come in quietly, but the impact of the two percent across-the-board cuts is anything but that for Medicare providers across the country. With Congressís failure to stop it, sequestration officially starts at 11:59 pm March 1. Politico reports that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will issue a notice to agencies to make the cuts, including a two percent across-the-board cut to payments for all Medicare services.

OMB Controller Danny Werfel told Politico, "The reality is I think it becomes extraordinarily problematic and serious once we hit March 1 because then itís real, and then a lot of these things come to fruition in a much more exponential way."

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) is expected to officially alert providers and insurers about the date that Medicare payment cuts will take effect, which is expected to be for services provided on or after April 1.

In interviews across the state, health care leaders shared their concerns with the media.

"It appears that hospitals are to be the target of more cuts to resolve the crisis, and this is unacceptable to our patients, staff and the Tomah community," Phil Stuart, chief executive officer of Tomah Memorial Hospital said in a February 28 La Crosse Tribune article. (

"While we have done an excellent job planning for the future, we cannot predict the magnitude of cuts that are ahead as Congress continues to offer only temporary fixes to a long-term budget crisis," said Stuart, a board member of the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

Mayo Clinic and Gundersen Health Systems also expressed concern in the same article.

Rick Thiesse, the systemís La Crosse spokesman said Mayo is very concerned about the impact of sequestration and further cuts in Medicare payments.

"Sequestrationís across-the-board, indiscriminate cuts are not in the best interests of Medicare patients and quality health care delivery," Thiesse said.

In a statewide news release February 27, WHA President Steve Brenton warned of dire consequences for Wisconsinís hospitals (see story page 3).

"High performing health care providers in states like ours are going to be forced to reassess services, programs and employment needs, which could limit access to care and diminish Wisconsinís ability to attract business growth."

WHA continues to work to protect hospital care and has facilitated two trips to Washington DC for hospital leaders to meet personally with their members of Congress. See coverage of the most recent meeting on page 1 in this issue of The Valued Voice.

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WHA, Hospital Leaders in DC as Sequester Countdown Looms
"We believe Wisconsin wins in a value-based world, and we are not afraid of that future."

With the sequester looming, the Wisconsin Hospital Association and Wisconsin hospital leaders traveled to Washington, DC February 26 to talk with members of Congress about the negative impact sequester and other potential Medicare cuts would have on Wisconsin.

In his meeting with Cong. Mark Pocan, Reedsburg Area Medical Center CEO Bob Van Meeteren provided insight into the role that rural, critical access hospitals play in Pocanís district and across the state.

Ministry Howard Young Medical Center CEO Sheila Clough added, "We are the biggest employer in our area and weíre operating on a small margin." She went on to explain that due to a small operating margin, her hospital would not be able to absorb sequester cuts plus additional cuts Congress may be discussing without there being real impacts on her hospital and access to care in her community.

Holy Family Memorialís Scott McMeans provided a similar message to Cong. Tom Petri.

"Our organization serves 100,000 individuals in your district. Cuts impact access."

Cong. Petri responded, "Youíve convinced me." He also indicated that cutting reimbursements limits a hospitalís ability to continue providing the high-quality, high-value care for which Wisconsin is known.

Cong. Ribble affirmed the importance of looking for solutions to reforming Medicare, stating, "The faster you can move to an outcome-based, value-based system, the faster you solve the problem."

The Wisconsin Hospital Associationís Jenny Boese agreed. "We believe Wisconsin wins in a value-based world, and we are not afraid of that future."

"Unfortunately, Wisconsinís high value providers are disadvantaged when Congress continues to enact blunt, arbitrary cuts which do nothing to move Medicare toward value," she said.

Participants on this trip included: Reedsburg Area Medical Center CEO Bob Van Meeteren and his daughter, Hunter; Ministry Health Systemís Howard Young Medical Center CEO Sheila Clough; Scott McMeans, administrative director for strategic implementation at Holy Family Memorial; Jeremy Levin, advocacy director at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative; and Jenny Boese, vice president, external relations & member advocacy at the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

Log onto WHAís Facebook page at to see more photos from this trip and other hospital happenings.

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Budget Committee Members Visit Prevea to Discuss Graduate Medical Education
Reps. Nygren and Klenke briefed on WHA-backed new residency funding

WHA and members of a broad coalition for medical education met at Prevea Health in Green Bay on February 22 to discuss Governor Scott Walkerís budget proposal. The Governor provided $4 million in graduate medical education (GME) consortium funding and $1 million in grant funding for additional primary care, general surgery and psychiatry residency slots.

Ashok Rai, MD, CEO, Prevea Health, welcomed two members of the Joint Committee on Finance, Chairman John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Rep. John Klenke (R-Green Bay). Rai explained what Prevea is doing to attract and retain new physicians and the difficulty of recruiting new physicians to Green Bay. Providing more residency slots in Wisconsin for undergraduate medical students will help hospitals and health care systems retain and recruit Wisconsin-educated physicians.

WHA Executive Vice President Eric Borgerding and Chuck Shabino, MD, WHA senior policy advisor, reviewed WHAís physician shortage report titled "100 New Physicians a Year: An Imperative for Wisconsin." Borgerding discussed the investment that other states are considering, realizing that they, too, need to compete with other states to retain physicians.

"The Governorís budget provides substantial and innovative funding that can be used to expand existing and form new GME consortiums. These investments will help Wisconsin build upon its current residency infrastructure to increase the supply of physicians in Wisconsin," said Borgerding. "WHA is excited to be a part of this opportunity and looks forward to working with the Legislature to build upon that investment."

Kathy Kuhn, vice president of government and community relations for the Medical College of Wisconsin, spoke about the investment that the Medical College is making by building two new campuses in Green Bay and Wausau specifically designed to educate students in primary care, general surgery and psychiatry. The group understood the importance of maintaining that investment in the Northeastern region of the state by adding additional residency positions in Green Bay.

The two Representatives shared their concerns about the current workforce situation in Wisconsin, specifically as it relates to primary care physicians. "In order for Northern and Northeastern Wisconsin to capitalize on the Medical College of Wisconsinís recent campus investment, we need to ensure that those students have a place to practice their residency," said Chairman Nygren. "By offering graduate medical education opportunities in our districts, we should be able to retain quality primary care physicians, general surgeons and psychiatrists that are essential to the standard of living in Wisconsin."

Rai also hosted a panel of family physicians, psychiatrists and specialists who discussed why they chose to stay and practice medicine in Wisconsin after completing an in-state residency. The physicians said they, at first, were not likely to go to cities like Eau Claire, Appleton or Green Bay, but after they finished their residency they enjoyed being in the community and decided to stay. The physicians spoke about the ever-increasing student debt that faces graduates and discussed what other states have considered as options to provide relief, especially for those practicing in high-need specialties.

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Holy Family Memorialís Scott McMeans on Importance of WHA Advocacy Day

Recently WHA talked with Holy Family Memorialís Scott McMeans, administrative director of strategic implementation, about the importance of WHAís Advocacy Day and why he believes it is essential to be a hospital advocate. Advocacy Day will take place April 23 in Madison at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

Q: What statement do you think it makes to the State Legislature when 750 hospital advocates descend on Madison for WHAís Advocacy Day?

McMeans: Hospital advocates coming together in Madison makes the statement that Wisconsinís health care providers are proud of what they do for Wisconsin and want to make sure that our policymakers are informed and supported in ensuring the Wisconsin health care system stays one of the best in the country. I think it also sends the message that health care policies, whether payment or tort reform, need to continue as a major priority in the legislative agendas.

Q: Why do you make attending WHAís Advocacy Day a priority each year?

McMeans: As the key point person for advocacy at Holy Family Memorial, I make this day a priority to ensure that my organization is engaged with the issues that affect our operations and our community. Advocacy Day also allows me to build important relationships with our legislators. The event is an opportunity to bring staff, board members and physicians to Madison to also be engaged in the legislative process.

Q: Do you participate in the legislative visits during the afternoon of Advocacy Day? Why is this important to do?

McMeans: Yes! Legislators deal with a broad scope of activities every year and rely on communication and input from the community and experts in the field. The legislative visits during Advocacy Day help health care providers to ensure that legislators are well informed on how policy and issues will affect the communities they represent.

Q: Would you encourage others to attend Advocacy Day? Why?

McMeans: While advocacy activities should be year round, I would encourage all members to attend Advocacy Day to collaborate with peers and elected officials on topics and issues that we face in Wisconsin. It is also a great time to hear directly from our legislators, the Governor and to celebrate hospital volunteer auxiliaries for their contributions to our health care systems.

Make sure youíre putting your hospital contingent together today for Advocacy Day on April 23. Advocacy Day is a free event, but pre-registration is required. A program and online registration are available at:

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Sequester Will Cost Wisconsin Hospitals $2 Million a Week
Medicare cuts could trigger workforce reductions, limit access and delay capital spending

WHA issued the following news release February 27.

The stalemate in Washington is cause for deep concern among Wisconsin hospitals as they face the loss of millions of dollars in Medicare payments if sequestration kicks in on schedule March 1.

Over the next 10 years, the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) estimates that sequestration will cost hospitals here $1 billion in Medicare payments if the required two percent across-the-board cuts mandated by Congress takes effect as planned March 1. The two percent cut amounts to $2 million a week beginning March 1 from a program that already pays far less than costs for services provided to seniors.

The new cuts, which also affect Wisconsin physicians and nursing homes, are on top of the mandatory reductions already included in the health reform law, which WHA estimates will reduce hospital Medicare payments by $2.6 billion over the next decade. Additionally, hospital Medicare cuts were used to fund two recent short-term "fixes" to the broken-down physician Medicare payment system. Those cuts amount to about $200 million over the next few years.

According to a report released by the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA), in addition to the economic losses, Wisconsin could stand to lose nearly 15,000 jobs in the health care sector over the next nine years of the sequester. Health care comprises more than 13 percent of the total non-farm workforce in Wisconsin, or more than 300,000 jobs.

"The impact of these new cuts will be felt almost immediately in every community in Wisconsin," according to WHA President Steve Brenton. "The two percent sequester, on top of the cuts already baked into the health reform law, will have damaging consequences to Wisconsinís high-quality, high-value health care delivery system."

Brenton acknowledged the need for shared sacrifice across all sectors of the nationís economy in order to address growing federal budget deficit concerns. But as Medicare reductions keep mounting and uncompensated care levels continue to grow, he believes that hospital expense reductions forced by yet another round of cuts will take a toll on health care employment, future capital spending and subsidized community programs.

"High performing health care providers in states like ours are going to be forced to reassess services, programs and employment needs which could limit access to care and diminish Wisconsinís ability to attract business growth," according to Brenton. "The stalemate in Washington will have consequences right here in Wisconsin."

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Still Time to Register for March 5 Webinar Focused on New HIPAA Regulations

WHA is offering a 75-minute webinar, "From HITECH to High Risk: HIPAA Compliance after the Omnibus Rule," scheduled 12 to 1:15 pm on March 5.

Itís been more than a decade since the HIPAA Privacy Rules were finalized, but on January 17, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an omnibus final rule comprised of four HIPAA-related final rules.

This session will provide participants with an overview of the new HIPAA regulations; highlight key changes and deadlines, including changes to the rules regarding fundraising and marketing; and providing recommendations for implementation, including required changes to Business Associate Agreements, Notices of Privacy Practices and other policies and practices.

Register for this webinar today at

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Spooner Hosts WHA Hospital Listening Session with U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy

Over 40 hospital constituents representing a dozen hospitals in the 7th Congressional District attended the February 21 WHA hospital listening session with U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy. The event was hosted in Spooner by Spooner Health System (SHS).

"We were honored to host the listening session," says Mike Schafer, SHS CEO. "It was a great opportunity for hospital constituents and leaders to hear from Duffy. Likewise, it proved to be a good venue for hospital leaders to ask questions and voice their concerns as it relates to health care."

Duffy provided remarks about the current state of play on Capitol Hill and responded to questions on health care issues.

"Youíre getting nickel and dimed," began Duffy. "Itís hard for you to continue to provide access to care" in that type of environment.

Duffy added further, "Weíve already cut the fatÖweíve already been doing that here in Wisconsin."

Lakeview Medical Centerís Ned Wolf asked whether Congress would finally be able to fix the Medicare physician reimbursement formula (SGR). Rep. Duffy expressed some optimism since the Congressional Budget Office recently reduced its estimate for how much a fix would cost from $244 billion to $138 billion.

"We should have a long-term doc fix and make sure weíre not continuing to take dollars from hospitals" to fund short-term fixes. This is in reference to how Congress has previously cut hospitals to fund the doc fix.

Duffy also responded to questions about whether critical access hospital (CAH) cuts were still being discussed in Congress, to which he said he was not hearing talk on that. He reiterated his ongoing strong support for CAHs. "Itís important we aggressively work together to defend CAHs, especially in this district."

Watch The Valued Voice for updates on future WHA hospital listening sessions and information on how hospital advocates can help protect hospital care for those in Wisconsin.

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Trinkner Joins WHA Information Center

Steve Trinkner joined WHA Information Center (WHAIC) as a data analyst on February 25. In his role with WHAIC, Trinkner will produce publications based on surveys and discharge data, fulfill custom data requests and provide technical assistance for data queries.

Trinkner spent the last 15 years of his career working in the telecommunications industry developing and designing complex SQL programs and report writing from their data warehouse using SQL. He also served as a database administrator with his recent employer.

"We look forward to turning over the responsibility for producing our mandated publications and custom data requests to Steve over the next few months," said Debbie Rickelman, vice president, WHA Information Center. "These are core pieces of our business, and I am excited about hiring Steve to do the job."

Trinkner has a B.S. in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

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Still Time to Register for Partners for Patients "Catch the Wisconsin Wave"
March 12-13, 2013 *** Wisconsin Dells

National caliber keynote speakers to include:

Leaders and staff from all Wisconsin hospitals and health systems are invited to attend this important event. There is no cost to attend, but pre-registration is required. Register today at:

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Speakerís Mental Health Task Force Discusses Stigma and Barriers to Care

The Speakerís Task Force on Mental Health met for the first time February 27 following the announcement of its creation by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) in early February. The Speakerís Task Force is a bipartisan effort created to, among other things, improve coordination of care among those who treat people with mental illness. Assembly Health Committee Chairman Rep. Erik Severson, MD (R-Osceola) serves as the chair of the Task Force and Ranking Health Committee Member Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood) serves as the vice-chair.

Jerry Halverson, MD, a psychiatrist serving as medical director of adult services at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, chair-elect of the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association and a member of WHAís Mental Health Task Force, provided a medical explanation for what mental illness is and an overview of the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

"Mental illness is a disease of the brain caused by too much or too little of certain chemical messengers in the brain that are used for communications within the brain and to propagate activity," said Dr. Halverson. "This may lead to symptoms including sustained abnormal alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and impaired functioning. The symptoms can have minor or dire effects."

Halverson identified stigma as a barrier to treatment for mental illness. "This stigma, that mental illness is something Ďdifferentí has led to the system for treating mental health often being separated from other types of medical illness, and has led to mental health treatment often being relegated to less importance," said Halverson. "Although progress has been made, this very significant barrier remains."

Wisconsin policies in some cases perpetuate that stigma to the detriment of patient care. Halverson explained that in Wisconsin "medical records continue to be treated differently than other medical records. Notes that I produce during treatment are often legally inaccessible to the patientís primary care providers, which can lead to disjointed care, redundant tests, medication interactions and suboptimal care. All of this further denigrates care coordination and ultimately pushes the stigma further."

Halverson described the efforts of Rogers Memorial Hospital to combat stigma. "Rogers Memorial Hospital now has a key corporation, Rogers InHealth, that exists to work with other stakeholders in using best practices to combat stigma through experience and education," said Halverson. "The stigma has decreased over the past years but continues to be a powerful reason that people will choose to suffer in silence."

In December, WHAís Mental Health Task Force invited Sue McKenzie, director of Rogers InHealth to provide an overview to WHA of Rogers InHealthís efforts to eliminate mental health stigma through accessible education and advocacy resources for individuals, family and friends, the general public and health care professionals. WHAís Task Force indicated an interest in working with Rogers InHealth in their efforts, and in identifying ways that their work could be incorporated into WHAís efforts. (See

Shel Gross, director of public policy for Mental Health America - Wisconsin, but testifying to the Task Force as Chair the Wisconsin Mental Health Council, talked about how to best combat stigma.

"The literature is pretty clear that what best reduces stigma is when people have direct contact with individuals with mental illness who they view as being like them and who donít conform to their stereotypes," said Gross. "Itís that direct contact that is really critical."

Julianne Carbin, executive director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Wisconsin Chapter, and Dave Delap, a social worker and board member of NAMI Wisconsin, also addressed stigma, including perceptions by some individuals with mental illness that their health care providers unintentionally stigmatize them, and how to reduce stigma.

"What is the best way to deal with prejudice and discrimination? It is to get to know someone who is from that group, and realize they are people like you and me with strengths and weaknesses like you and me. That is why programs like NAMIís In Our Own Voice are so helpful," said Delap. "Itís that kind of getting to know people that breaks down prejudice and discrimination."

Speakers also focused on systemic level issues that are barriers to individuals accessing adequate mental health care.

Linda Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Family and Childrenís Agencies, identified access, coordination and payment flexibility as areas that need examination by the Task Force.

"We see access to services decreasing rapidly," said Hall. "Many of our agencies have had to develop waiting lists for chronically mentally ill individuals, and most agencies have had to limit the number of low income and Medicaid individuals they can see. These reductions have been necessary due to Medicaid rates that cover maybe 45 percent of costs and steadily declining payment rates by private insurance."

"We need to break down regulatory and funding silos that prevent collaboration between treatment providers," added Hall.

Relying on county government to organize and fund mental health services was also identified as a systemic barrier to consistent and effective access to mental health services in Wisconsin.

"The core issue that Iíd like the Task Force to understand as you think about the mental health system is the degree to which Wisconsin does not have such a system," said Gross. "There are tremendous disparities in the services available from county to county resulting in a lack of systemization of our supposed mental health system. A key underlying reason is the requirement that counties provide the share of Medicaid funding for many mental health services that the state ordinarily provides and does provide for most health care services. Because counties vary in their ability to do so, access varies as well."

Carbin from NAMI Wisconsin and Hugh Davis, executive director of Wisconsin Family Ties, echoed that assessment.

"Unfortunately, community support programs are not available in all parts of the state because of the way our county-based system is designed in Wisconsin. That is perhaps the largest frustration we hear from our members," said Carbin. "What we hear is that people who live in rural parts of the state or counties that donít offer evidence-based practices have minimal treatment options."

"Our childrenís mental health system is fractured. This is further complicated by the fact that primary responsibility for mental health service delivery resides at the county level," said Davis. "As a result, one can reasonably assert that as a bi-product of that structure that we have, that the state has not prioritized childrenís mental health, there is no documented vision for a childrenís mental health system, and no state agency is compiling data to measure the sufficiency of that system childrenís mental health services."

Task Force Chair Severson thanked the speakers for their help in guiding the Speakerís Task Force.

"Their insights will not only provide the Task Force members with a better understanding of the challenges facing individuals with mental health issues, but will also provide an opportunity to work together to improve mental health in Wisconsin," said Chair Severson. "I am confident that the Task Force can formulate ideas to address the myriad of issues faced by providers, advocates, law enforcement, education professionals and veteranís agencies."

The next meeting of the Speakerís Task Force is scheduled for late March and will focus on the challenges and opportunities faced by professionals who treat people with mental illness. WHA has been and will continue to work with WHAís Mental Health Task Force as it develops WHAís recommendations to the Speakerís Task Force.

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Northwest Workforce Investment Board Hosts Health Care Workforce Alliance Planning Session

Health care workforce alliances have been instrumental in addressing local health care workforce issues. Currently, there are several of these organizations in Wisconsin. On February 25 and 26, WHA Vice President or Workforce Development Judy Warmuth participated in a meeting sponsored by the Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board to discuss the feasibility and value of possibly creating a regional health care alliance in the northwest region of the state. The Board proposed, as a purpose statement for the alliance, "To ensure an abundant supply of health care workers in our region now and in the future by working in collaboration with all stakeholders."

Several regional workforce alliances already exist in Wisconsin; all are working to ensure that an adequate future health care workforce is available to care for Wisconsin residents.

Human resource professionals from Medford, Park Falls and Hayward were in attendance. Also participating in the sessions were representatives from area technical colleges, area health education centers, representatives of the Department of Workforce Development and a wide variety of provider facilities, including hospitals, hospice providers, home care agencies and public health.

Speaking at each of the summits, Warmuth described current health care employment data and issues. She also outlined the work being done by several of the regional alliances including those in the Fox Valley, La Crosse, Lake Shore, Southern Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

"Each of these alliances has identified regional issues and have prioritized their work to ensure that they are addressing their areasí most pressing concern," Warmuth. "These groups have helped facilitate collaboration and action toward ensuring that Wisconsin has a workforce in place to meet the demand for care now and in the future."

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CMS Informs AHIMA: No Further Delays in ICD-10 Implementation

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will maintain their commitment to the current ICD-10-CM/PCS compliance date of October 1, 2014, according to a letter sent to American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) President Kathleen Frawley. The letter was sent in response to AHIMA"s request for CMS to confirm its ICD-10 implementation date after more than 80 physician groups represented by the American Medical Association called on CMS in January to delay or abandon the ICD-10 conversion.

Robert Tagalicod, director of CMSí Office of E-Health Standards and Services, wrote that CMS agrees with AHIMAís recommendation to continue progress toward ICD-10 implementation. "Based on your feedback and other stakeholder input, CMS believes that the one-year extension offers physicians adequate time to train their coders, complete system changeovers and conduct testing," Tagalicod wrote. "Furthermore, we have found that many private and public sector health plans, hospitals and hospital systems, and large physician practices are far along in their ICD-10 implementation."

Tagalicod wrote that CMS believes ICD-10 is a key part of ongoing health care reform efforts, and a "cornerstone" of several programs working to modernize and improve the health care system and lower costs.

"The Wisconsin ICD-10 Partnership, a collaborative of providers, payers and vendors, continues to meet to promote a successful ICD-10 transition among stakeholders in Wisconsin," states Debbie Rickelman, vice president of the WHA Information Center, and co-facilitator of the WICD-10 Partnership. "We have formed three workgroups to address readiness, data analytics and to improve and maintain the

WICD-10 website," notes Rickelman. "Confirmation from CMS is exactly what we need right now to keep the stakeholders moving forward."

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Wisconsin Hospitals Community Benefits: Injuries and Violence

A teen arrives in the emergency department by ambulance following a terrible car accident. A child receives head injuries while bicycling without a helmet. A woman walks into the emergency department with injuries inflicted by an abusive spouse. These are stories of pain and tragedy that hospital personnel see all too often. Injury is the most under recognized major public health problem facing the country and it is the leading cause of death in people ages 1 to 44 in Wisconsin. Wisconsin hospitals devote significant resources to reduce the number of intentional and unintentional injuries that occur in the communities they serve.

Mayo Clinic Health System offers Car Control Class to help teens be safer drivers

The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16 to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

Enter Mayo Clinic Health System and Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, which have teamed up to provide a semiannual educational driving class for teens. In 2012, 48 teens completed the class. Since the course began in 2010, 110 teens have participated.

The goal of Car Control Class is not to teach teens how to drive. Rather, trained professionals teach teens on how to be safer drivers while having them drive on a test track to experience situations that frequently cause panic and overcorrection resulting in crashes, injuries or death.

"My mom and dad have always impressed upon me how important it is to be careful on the roads, especially in risky weather conditions, but it didnít dawn on me how dangerous driving really is until I took this class," says Katie Lindquist, 18, of Eau Claire who took the November 2012 class. "Now I know how far ahead of time I have to start breaking on the icy roads for my car to make a complete stop. Already this winter, I have used what I learned many times."

In the classroom, teens are taught ways to eliminate distractions and the importance of tire grip on control. Classroom instruction relates these elements to real-world situations, and teens learn how to look farther ahead; anticipate, plan and adjust to changing conditions; and avoid major crashes.

On the track, teens have the chance to feel how their cars respond during situations such as emergency and wet braking, recovering when a tire goes off the road, emergency lane changes to avoid an accident on wet and dry pavement, and side-to-side weight transfers. The teens experience major suspension and weight transfers in their cars and learn to control the cars with smaller corrections.

"We try to get teens to understand what the car can and cannot do, so when they get in an emergency situation, they donít panic," says Leland Mayer, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System and Car Control Class founder and instructor. "A critical element is practicing on the test track in a controlled environment. They learn how a car can lose control and how to avoid overcorrection and panic while managing the carís response to regain control."

Personal experience spurred Katieís mom, Susan, to enroll her daughter in the class. "I was in a serious car accident as a young adult," Susan says. "The Car Control Class gave me a chance to help prevent something similar from happening to Katie."

Susan recommends Car Control Class to other parents of teen drivers. "Katie and I had a fun day; we both loved the class," Susan says. "It definitely prepares teens for real-life driving conditions, and parents get a lot of good information, too."

Mayo Clinic Health System, Eau Claire

BRMH and community certify 65 area babysitters

Black River Memorial Hospital (BRMH) hosted their annual Babysitting Clinic on May 12, 2012 at the Black River Falls Middle School. Students ages 11 and up were invited to attend this free educational event in a new one-day format. Students came from Melrose, Black River Falls, Blair, Hixton, Alma Center, Taylor, Merrillan, Wilton and Sparta to learn more about guidelines for sitters, bathing, feeding, and dressing infants, fire safety, safety and legal responsibilities, first aid, rescue breathing and choking interventions, as well as fun activities for children. Each participant received a babysitting bag with a first aid kit and a certificate after successful completion of an exam on the babysitting topics.

"This is truly a community effort. The Partners of Black River Memorial Hospital provided the lunch for each participant. Experts from the Black River Falls Fire Department, Krohn Clinic, BRHM and local parents volunteered their time to speak on topics relevant to make these babysitters the best in the area," said Amy Yaeger, communications and marketing manager and coordinator of the event.

Black River Memorial Hospital, Black River Falls

Is your child riding safely?

Childrenís Hospital of Wisconsin, as the lead agency for Safe Kids Southeast Wisconsin Coalition, works hard to reduce the biggest risk to the safety and well-being of children. Despite improvements, car crashes remain the No. 1 cause of death for children between ages 3 and 14. The largest contributing factor in these fatalities is incorrect installation and use of child safety seats.

Safe Kids Southeast Wisconsin works with local health, police and fire departments, as well as community organizations and advocates, to provide free car seat installation and education throughout southeastern Wisconsin. The goal of the program is to ensure every child is riding safer.

"With the proper use of child safety seats, fatal injury can be reduced by 71 percent in infants and 54 percent in toddlers," said Lisa Klindt Simpson, coordinator, Safe Kids Southeast Wisconsin.

Safe Kids Southeast Wisconsin holds eight to 15 car seat check events annually throughout Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties. Last year, more than 200 seats were checked and nearly 40 were distributed to families in need.

The coalition also coordinates with agencies where parents can have safety seats professionally installed by appointment. Nearly 2,200 seats were properly installed and 480 seats were given out.

Safe Kids Southeast Wisconsin takes the lead in training and providing support and continuing education for local child passenger safety technicians, which helps to extend these services throughout the area. In 2012, 100 technicians were trained or recertified.

Child safety seats are essential for the protection of our children, and the proper use and installation often is overlooked. Childrenís Hospital of Wisconsin is happy to be working with Safe Kids Worldwide in the ongoing effort to reduce child fatalities due to motor vehicle collisions and to making our communities safer for children every day.

Childrenís Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Submit community benefit stories to Mary Kay Grasmick, editor, at

Read more about hospitals connecting with their communities at

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