THEDACARE ANNOUNCES PUBLIC FORUMS ON FACILITIES EXPLORATION
Community Invited to Discuss New Spaces and Capabilities
In May, ThedaCare will hold four public forums in Neenah and the Fox Cities to expand the community discussion about how ThedaCare can continue to provide leading-edge healthcare into the future. This includes talking about the possibility of bringing together the system’s two Fox Cities hospitals into one premier, regional healthcare destination that provides the highest quality healthcare at the lowest cost for generations to come.
“This journey belongs to the community,” said Dean Gruner, MD, president and CEO of ThedaCare. “Community input, combined with our ability to make decisions locally, will lead us to the best solution. We’re excited for everyone to join us in open conversations about the future of healthcare in the communities we serve.”
The public forums will include a brief presentation followed by a Q&A section with Dr. Gruner and Greg Long, MD, chief medical officer at ThedaCare. Light food will also be served with continental breakfast in the morning and light appetizers in the evening.
The dates and locations for the four public forums include:
Thurs., May 12, 7:30-8:30 a.m. at Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel, Neenah
Thurs., May 12, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel, Neenah
Tues., May 24, 7:30-8:30 a.m. at Liberty Hall Banquet and Conference Center, Kimberly
Tues., May 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Liberty Hall Banquet and Conference Center, Kimberly
In addition to the public forums, ThedaCare is holding a series of meetings with business leaders and civic groups to gather their input on how ThedaCare can continue to be good stewards of the community’s healthcare resources long into the future. In addition, area coffee shops are hosting casual conversations with ThedaCare leadership.
“We’re starting from a very high point with a rich history of high quality, low cost care,” said Dr. Gruner. “But the future will likely require different space and capabilities to match the changing needs in healthcare. There are many questions and unknowns for us to tackle together.”
THEDACARE BOARD APPROVES EXPLORATION OF FACILITIES
The ThedaCare Board of Trustees recently approved a long-term exploration of facilities throughout the ThedaCare nine-county service area, and their ability to meet the communities’ expectations for outstanding health care into the future. This includes the possibility of bringing together the system’s two Fox Cities hospitals into one premier, regional health care destination that provides the highest quality health care at the lowest cost for generations to come.
“We’re starting from a very high point with a rich history of high quality, low cost care,” said ThedaCare President and CEO Dean Gruner, MD. “Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark were voted best in the area for the 14th year in a row last year, and Medicare recognized ThedaCare as providing the highest quality, lowest cost care in the country. But with a 58-year-old hospital in Appleton and a 107-year-old hospital in Neenah, it’s about time to engage the community in a discussion about how we continue to provide leading-edge care into the future.”
That future will likely require different space and capabilities to match the changing needs in healthcare. For example, patients who need care at a hospital are more critically ill, with more complex issues such as unusual infectious diseases, and require more intensive care than in the past. And in the clinics, patients need different levels of more comprehensive care, such as diagnostic services or treatments in the same location. As healthcare evolves, our emerging view is that healthcare is a combination of people and technology – beyond facilities – to deliver exceptional care at a more affordable cost. The journey to begin answering how to best transform began about 18 months ago, with explorations by a group of people that included community members, doctors, nurses, and ThedaCare leaders.
“This exploration really belongs to the whole community,” said ThedaCare Board Chair John Davis. “There are many questions and unknowns for us to tackle together. We must carefully assess how our facilities will meet the future needs of healthcare in our area, confirm what patients and our communities expect from ThedaCare, and continue to be good stewards of our healthcare resources. The Board, together with outstanding staff and doctors, remains committed to providing the highest level of care for everyone. It’s an exciting time for ThedaCare, for all of us.”
Next steps include engaging additional community members, business leaders and ThedaCare employees in discussions on expectations, needs, and the future of healthcare through task forces, community conversations and other events. Community input, combined with our ability to make decisions locally, will lead us to the best solution, Davis said.
“No matter how the discussion evolves over the next months and years, our focus remains the same: to provide the highest quality healthcare at the lowest cost for patients now and to come,” Dr. Gruner said. “We’re excited for everyone to join us in open conversations about the future of healthcare in the communities we serve.”
FINDING ANSWERS TOGETHER
When your roots in a community go as deep as ours do at ThedaCare, you approach potential change with respect, a listening ear and a laser-like focus on mission. Improving the health of the communities we serve isn’t just a nice slogan – it’s how we do business and how we plan for the future.
Since we’ve announced our exploration about the possibility of bringing together our two Fox Cities hospitals into one premier, regional healthcare destination, this community has responded with curiosity and interest, and yes, some skepticism, too. Folks seem to generally understand that healthcare is changing, and as a community, we need to fearlessly ask good, hard questions about what the best care looks like for the generations that will follow us.
In phone calls and conversations, emails and social media, people are asking the questions that need answers. People are saying to me, “Tell me more. What are the benefits of this kind of change? What are the potential drawbacks?” They’re genuinely receptive to this conversation.
That’s exactly where we are, too. In fact, we’re taking this conversation on the road. Beginning this spring, ThedaCare leaders will be talking with civic and business groups, holding coffee chats and public forums, and launching citizen advisory groups. The community discussion involves us all.
At ThedaCare, we’ve been asking ourselves some hard questions for several years. Some of the biggest questions we’re asking are about financial stewardship, like, “is it wise to continue investing millions of dollars to keep aging facilities as modern and updated as possible?” Our facilities—though great—are aging and at some point these expenses will exceed our ability to fund them– from sidewalk repairs and upgrading the air handling units to keep pace with modern-day infections to replacing CT scanners at both hospitals at the same time.
That question begs another we’re talking about: Even with that investment, what do we do about changes in care delivery that can’t be helped by renovation? We know care is increasingly delivered where patients are – in their homes, over the Internet, at their work places, in outpatient surgery centers. Hospital care is changing, too. New technologies and work processes do not always align with facility capabilities.
For example, the surgery department at Appleton Medical Center is largely the same as it was when I came to town in 1983. The original inpatient operating rooms range in age from 25 to 45 years, and they are significantly smaller than current-day operating rooms. They were built before the advent of new surgical techniques like laparoscopy that use computers, scopes, cameras and projection screens – and require more space.
Perhaps one of the biggest questions the ThedaCare leadership team and Board of Trustees are asking is “how do we fully support the care delivery of our doctors, nurses and other providers?” There’s no doubt they’re delivering outstanding care, and many times, they’re “working around” the facility to make it happen. What needs to change to allow them to blossom and more fully utilize their God-given talents to shine even brighter at the care and compassion they provide for their friends and neighbors?
Expensive renovation has helped our hospitals keep pace, and they’ve served us well. Can we sustain that for the next 30 to 50 years? If not, does it make sense to bring them together into one, new hospital? Maybe it doesn’t. But our board has said we’d be irresponsible not to explore it. How we get to the future is not a foregone conclusion, but we owe it to our community to look into it.
Thanks for joining us on this journey.
Dr. Dean Gruner is president and CEO of Appleton-based ThedaCare. To send your thoughts to him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.