A long-standing partnership between two local health care partners has helped to ensure that the community’s physical and well-being needs are being met, even as new medical concerns come to light.
Agnesian HealthCare, a member of SSM Health, and the Fond du Lac County Health Department have collaborated to help individuals and families navigate through various health issues, including measles, mumps, rabies, influenza, H1N1 and more, to provide needed medical care as well as education.
This partnership’s significance has been amplified through the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in Fond du Lac County much sooner than other areas within the state of Wisconsin. And, from the first day until present day, Agnesian HealthCare and the Fond du Lac County Health Department have worked side-by-side to be present and flexible to address the ever-changing virus.
On May 13, as part of Health Care Week, Agnesian HealthCare and SSM Health recognized Kim Mueller, Fond du Lac County health officer, and the Fond du Lac County Health Department with a community partner “Health Care Hero Award.”
“This honor, which is so rightfully due, represents the sole Health Care Hero Award being given to a community partner within the entire SSM Health Wisconsin region,” according to Katherine Vergos, St. Agnes Hospital president. “We have always been proud of the strong partnership we have with all of our health department partners, but this really solidifies how much our mutually-beneficial collaboration pays off in the long run.”
SSM Health celebrated its dedicated caregivers during Health Care Week, May 9 to 15. Health Care Hero Awards were given to team members to acknowledge the heroic work they every day - revealing God’s healing presence in countless ways across the health ministry.
In celebration of the many heroes among us, the Health Care Hero Awards, are designed to recognize those employees, providers and community partners who have exemplified SSM Health values throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, displaying deeply compassionate service, extraordinary innovation and courageous leadership.
This is one simple way we can each express appreciation and gratitude to those colleagues who most inspire us.
“I’m grateful for the relationship Kim and Katherine have and the leadership they have demonstrated for our community,” says Allen Buechel, county executive of Fond du Lac County. “This has been challenging year in which they have navigated successfully to help the community.”
The Fond du Lac County Health Department, with Kim Mueller as its health officer, has been so responsive from day one of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now that we are past the 365-day mark, they are just as responsive and great community partners to work with,” Vergos says. “We are very fortunate serving to have such a strong and two-way partnership with our health department. Team members have demonstrated great flexibility and accountability to their community and were present in our board room the night the pandemic began.”
The collaboration began the very day the first COVID-19 patient arrived at the St. Agnes Hospital Emergency Department.
“Kim Mueller was physically present to view and evaluate the situation,” according to Renee Weier, St. Agnes Hospital Emergency Department director. “The Health Department team was onsite that night well after hours as patient tracing and contact tracing were started in earnest. This team was also present at the hospital’s Incident Command Center meetings to ensure that messages and support to the community were unified and swift.”
These side-by-side efforts to provide resources for COVID-19 testing, precautions, education and now vaccinations have led to successful initiatives.
“Kim and her team understood early on that we needed to get ahead of this and provide support so the hospital could maintain safe capacity levels,” Weier says. “Kim helped the community to understand the reasons for shut downs and closures to ‘slow the curve.’ We were sharing data and doing live streams to inform the public of real time events and numbers.”
If that wasn’t enough, the Fond du Lac County Health Department also stepped forward with a $50,000 donation to the Agnesian HealthCare Foundation to help offset the costs of five employee self-screening kiosks to ensure the safety of employees and all those entering into our facilities. Those kiosks were replicated for use at SSM Health facilities in Madison and Janesville.
“Now our combined efforts are focusing on vaccinating the community, and another collaboration is looking at how to effectively outreach to underserved populations,” Vergos says. “The Health Department is utilizing its extensive resources, including interpreter services and other community contacts, to ensure that anyone that wants a COVID-19 vaccine can get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
These efforts have included vaccinations in lower income housing complexes and other homebound individuals. Early collaborations have helped to establish extremely effective larger community-wide vaccination clinics, including more than 1,000 individuals in one session.
“We are truly honored to be recognized during Health Care Week by our local health care providers,” Mueller says. “Public health at its core is all about partnerships for health and we deeply value our relationship with SSM Health. We look forward to building upon our existing partnership to benefit community health.”
“Kim Mueller and team are true heroes who deserve some recognition for the tireless effort and care they continue to give this community,” Vergos says.