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October 16, 2014

Affinity Health System ThedaCare Working Together on Joint Ebola Planning

The Fox Cities leadership of Affinity Health System and ThedaCare recognize response to a suspected Ebola case in the area requires the two systems work together to protect the community.

Health Systems have Focus on Community, not Separate Hospitals

The Fox Cities leadership of Affinity Health System and ThedaCare recognize response to a suspected Ebola case in the area requires the two systems work together to protect the community.

Both health care systems each have gathered a cross-functional readiness team, or Incident Command, to create plans to respond if a patient arrives at one of their hospitals or clinics with symptoms of Ebola. The Incident Command team is a multidisciplinary group, with representation including acute and ambulatory staff, infection prevention, quality, HR, IT, lab, security and communications. The team also serves as a liaison to local and state health departments as well as national reference facilities for guideline adherence, education dissemination and epidemiological data gathering. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin-Fox Valley leadership was also participating in ThedaCare’s Incident Command.

Leaders of the individual health care systems’ teams gathered this week to discuss how the systems can best work together.

“Ebola would be a community concern and not a separate hospital concern,” said Mark Hallett, MD, ThedaCare chief clinical officer and incident commander. “It makes sense for us to work together and discuss how we can work together to protect the residents of the Fox Cities.”

“This isn’t the first time we have worked together,” reminded Mark Kehrberg, MD, chief medical officer for Affinity Health System, which is a part of Ministry Health Care. “We’ve partnered previously to plan for H1N1, influenza, and bioterrorism. Our focus now is on Ebola preparedness for our staff and any possible patients. Working together strengthens our preparedness as a community.”

Affinity and ThedaCare leadership have been sharing processes for Ebola response planning and have agreed to consider sharing resources, such as staff, equipment and facilities. Ministry Health Care, which includes Affinity, has also formed a system-wide Incident Command team to better prepare for and further ensure the identification of possible Ebola patients and the protection of healthcare workers. ThedaCare’s Incident Command also includes its five rural hospitals in Shawano, Waupaca, New London, Berlin and Wild Rose.

Tracey Froiland, the regional director of Wisconsin Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program, praised Affinity and ThedaCare working together. “It is great they are looking beyond their hospital walls and are pulling together to put the community’s needs first,” Froiland said. “They are a great example of collaboration.”

Both health systems have policies and plans in place for situations like this, and leaders review and train with staff on a regular basis to ensure they are prepared in the event of an actual situation.

At this time, there have been no reported cases of Ebola in Wisconsin.

Affinity Health System is a Catholic, mission-driven integrated health care system sponsored by Ministry Health Care. Affinity Health System has more than 250 physicians, 25 clinics, three hospitals, and specialty health care centers of excellence. Affinity traces its roots to the founding of hospitals in the Fox Valley more than 100 years ago and provides health care to more than a dozen communities throughout Northeast Wisconsin. In 2013 Ministry Health Care joined Ascension Health as the second healthcare ministry in Wisconsin. Ascension is the largest Catholic and not-for-profit healthcare system in the nation.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, ThedaCare At Work, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is one of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.