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MOVING FORWARD COLUMN: Aspirus meeting challenges with community

MOVING FORWARD COLUMN: Aspirus meeting challenges with community

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In 2020, Divine Savior Healthcare formally joined Aspirus Health and became Aspirus Divine Savior Hospital & Clinics. The Sisters of the Divine Savior and the organization’s leadership determined being part of a system would best allow us to continue growing and providing the people of our community with the excellent health care they deserve. This forward thinking led us to Aspirus Health, a strong, integrated health system based in Wausau, that deeply understands rural Wisconsin communities and our unique health care needs. While we could not have predicted the timing, we feel very fortunate this occurred prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic March 2019.

Throughout the pandemic, being part of the Aspirus Health family allowed us to collaborate with our peers across Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to approach challenges as a team. Together we shared best practices and pooled resources to provide better care for our employees, patients and residents. These efforts will continue as we move forward and will result in increased access to services, specialists and other resources for the communities we serve.

While telemedicine has had an increased presence in health care in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its use and adoption. As we and other health care organizations limited on-site services to help slow the potential spread of COVID-19 and protect our patients and employees, telemedicine and online virtual visits allowed our providers to carry on caring for patients. We predict this expectation for access to care outside the clinic exam rooms will continue to expand following the pandemic and we will continue to grow these services to meet needs.

Similarly, we also saw an increased use of remote monitoring of conditions and home health care services to help manage more conditions at home. We are committed to the ongoing delivery and growth of these services for our community members beyond the pandemic.

The entire health care industry, including Aspirus Divine Savior, had its pandemic and emergency preparedness planning put to the test this year. We tested our plans and our ability to mobilize and modify our policies and procedures with continually changing recommendations. Our staff at Aspirus Divine Savior proved to be incredibly resilient and resourceful in changing our workflows and adjusting how we care for our community, all while keeping ourselves and our patients and residents safe.

An example of the agility and resourcefulness of our team is the Respiratory Care Clinic at our Portage Clinic. At the very beginning of the pandemic, we quickly opened the walk-in RCC in an open clinic space. This allowed us to use a separate entrance and dedicated staff to provide COVID-19 testing and care for those with COVID symptoms so we could minimize exposure and risk to others.

This year has been challenging and devastating in many ways, but it has also shown us the importance of community. We worked hand in hand with local officials, health departments, media, emergency responders and businesses to keep our community safe. We asked those we serve to help us in ways we had not done in recent history – and they showed us how much they cared by following precautions and the advice of our health care experts. Moving forward, we hope any future challenges can be met with the same sense of togetherness so we can keep our community a safe and healthy place to live.

Michael Decker, president, Aspirus Divine Savior Hospital & Clinics.

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