It might surprise you to learn that 97% of Wisconsin’s land area is considered rural, and 30% of the state’s residents live in rural areas. At ThedaCare, we know that rural residents and communities have their own unique strengths, needs and challenges.
Residents of larger cities may have only a short drive to the nearest medical center, but that’s often not the case for people who live in rural communities. For them, a trip to the emergency department can take up to an hour — sometimes longer.
ThedaCare believes someone living in a town of 200 should have the same access to care as a person living in a city of 200,000. That dedication led us to pursue and complete an expansion of the emergency department at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin. The new space opened in July of 2021.
“We know those needs are different for people living in rural areas,” said Tammy Bending, Vice President of Critical Access Hospitals for the ThedaCare South Region. “Every day, we strive to understand each person’s unique medical background, lifestyle and personal goals, getting patients back to living their best life, sooner.”
The project increased the number of treatment rooms from seven to 10, and the size of the rooms expanded. It also added designated rooms for behavioral health services, with spaces designed to keep both patients and team members safe.
To address the specific needs of agricultural communities, the space has a dedicated decontamination room with a shower. Berlin is home to many farming and agri-businesses, which can face an increased risk of chemical contaminations. The specialized room allows team members to care for multiple victims in the event of a contamination emergency.
Berlin’s emergency department also includes negative pressure rooms — sometimes called isolation rooms — which provide a safe space to care for those with infectious illnesses such as COVID-19.
A bereavement room allows families to gather together to support one another, and an expanded ambulance garage makes it easier for the emergency vehicles to get in and unload. This allows for faster treatment of patients.
“A lot of people ask me, what is population health?” said ThedaCare President and CEO Dr. Imran Andrabi. “There are a lot of complicated answers to that question, but my answer is, know the people that you’re taking care of and meet them where they are. When considering the Berlin ED project, it’s all about knowing the people of the community.”
Tammy Chier, a former ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin employee, donated $250,000 to the project and rallied other community members for support to fund the project.
“I worked here and gave my all to what I did here,” she said. “Our community is very close-knit, and when there’s a need, people come together. [The new emergency department] is a great place to be able to serve people.”
The expanded emergency department marked its one-year anniversary in July, and it’s already making a huge impact. Bending expressed gratitude to the community, the Berlin Foundation Board and the ThedaCare Family of Foundations for helping bring the project to life.
“We take care of a very large area here — over 60,000 lives,” she said. “It means so much to this community for us to be able to continue to have an emergency department to care for people. It means the world.”