Our exploration of future healthcare facilities has generated a lot of conversation. That’s just what we wanted! We participated in more than two dozen meetings in the last four months, and engaged more than 425 people. We reached out to many people, and others asked to join the conversation. We’ve met with regular folks at coffee chats and public forums in Kimberly and Neenah, business leaders at Rotary, Kiwanis and local chambers of commerce, economic leaders with the Fox Cities Regional Partnership and Future Neenah, our partners like Gold Cross Ambulance, and many others. We’ve also appeared on a couple of radio talk shows and TV news programs, responded to email questions and met personally with local public officials, including Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna and Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert, as well as Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris.
Thank you to everyone who’s attended a meeting, asked a question, and followed our journey. As a locally owned, community-based healthcare system with a history and culture of collaboration, ThedaCare is on this journey with the whole community.
At this point, we’re still seeking answers, but we’ve learned a lot and received encouraging feedback. Here’s what we’ve heard: 63 percent of people who responded to a brief survey (N=375) said they “agree” or “strongly agree” with the direction ThedaCare is exploring 20 percent are “neutral” 17 percent “disagree” or “strongly disagree” More than 83 percent want to learn more about the location of a potential new regional medical center More than 64 percent want to learn more about the cost of healthcare People also want to learn how changes might impact jobs and healthcare quality People are most excited about the opportunities for state-of-the-art care, new technologies and a central location People are most concerned about the cost of the project, what will happen to the existing facilities and the impact on the community.
My take away from that feedback, and from conversations with public officials, is two-fold. 1) We have significant (but not universal) community support, as well as board support to proceed with our exploration, and 2) we should continue our transparent approach to keep people current and answer questions.
While we’ve been exploring the idea of one regional medical center, we’ve also continued our exploration internally. We began this journey about 22 months ago with a group of people that included community members, doctors, nurses and ThedaCare leaders. We’ve advanced that groundwork by launching work groups that are carefully studying specific areas of the changing world of healthcare, and how ThedaCare can continue to lead in delivering that care. Those 11 work groups are looking into key issues such as emergency room care, potential redevelopment options and, of course, the best possible location for a new regional medical center, and more.
These groups are focused on how ThedaCare should be organized to provide the best healthcare for our communities for generations to come. To that same end, we are talking with other healthcare systems and hospitals from around the country that have done similar projects.
The bottom line is that when we tell people what we’re doing, they mostly agree it’s time this work gets done – it just makes sense. They agree it’s time to look at healthcare this way. We’re continuing the exploration, and I invite you to join. We have more community meetings coming up, and you can always send me an email at email@example.com.
Oh, and despite all the rumors, there’s no location selected yet. Honestly. We are working hard to get the location right no matter how much time it takes.
By Dr. Dean Gruner, president and CEO of Appleton-based ThedaCare. To send your thoughts to him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.