Tomah Health CEO Phil Stuart admits that the past year has been the most challenging in his 48-year career in health care. Considering the challenges of COVID-19, Stuart also acknowledges that the 1-year anniversary of Tomah Health has marked a significant chapter for the organization and community.
“It’s hard to believe that is has been only one year,” Stuart said of last year’s October opening of the facility at 501 Gopher Dr. on Tomah’s south side.
“We have weathered the storm; we have done the right things to make sure that we have a safe environment for our staff and also for those who want to use our services,” Stuart said. “I am very proud of our staff for being able to rise to the challenge and make things happen,” Stuart said of the organization, which continues to monitor COVID daily.
He said that the hospital is “basically back to full operations” following a reduction in services which occurred in March. “That’s a testament to every individual who works here,” Stuart said. “We should be very proud of that not only as an organization but also has a community.”
Stuart cited a number of features at Tomah Health that have enabled staff to care for COVID patients. “Given the way our new facility is designed, we have been able to maximize our infection control and how we treat people that may be infectious, so our new building has actually been an asset as it relates to COVID,” he said. “I think that the fact that we have a new facility and were able to utilize our facility to the degree that we can has helped us with the pandemic.”
Stuart feels the expansion of services offered in the new building got lost because of the virus. “We worked through this and created a new norm, and I hope that people will appreciate the services that we now offer in the community. The feedback that I am getting is that we have a beautiful facility and the services that we provide are really appreciated,” he said.
Aside from COVID, Stuart said the services that Tomah Health has offered the past year have been successful in meeting the health care needs of the area. “Certainly the number of cases that we see in terms of orthopedics and our ability to treat those patients in an expanded rehab services department is huge. Having a new Women’s Health Center has also allowed us to continue to expand the services that we provide locally for women’s health issues. Those are all very positive,” he added. Stuart also highlighted the new Sleep Services Dept. which provides expanded sleep services including in-house sleep studies.
Stuart acknowledged there was some apprehensiveness from some who felt a new building would bring an increase in health care costs. “When we started this building project people were afraid that we were going to raise rates to pay for it,” he said. “As we just completed our first budget in our new building, our rate increase is going to be one of the lowest that we have had in several years and well below the state average.”
With employment over 400, Stuart said that Tomah Health continues to have a major impact on the local economy. “We have over 400 employees now – all with good salaries and benefits, so not only do we provide a good place for people to get care, we also provide a good place for employees to work.”
As for the future, Stuart said the community can expect to see additional services and increased health care providers. “When people come to our community to look at where they want to set up their medical practice, and they see this new building, the new equipment and the services that we offer, I think that is impressive to them. We are using that as a way to be able to provide more providers in this community and gain greater access for people to get into the health care system.”
While no one can predict exactly what the next year will bring, Stuart knows the past 12-months have been anything but normal. “Year one has been very interesting,” he said. “I don’t know what we would be like if it were not for COVID, but that’s the lot that we have. The building is one thing; it’s the staff that work inside that makes the difference.”
In recognition of the anniversary, Tomah Health donated $1,000 to the Tomah Boys & Girls Club. Stuart said the donation recognized the ongoing partnership with the club and its 20-year anniversary of offering services to Tomah area youth.
“We’ve always had a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club so we thought what a better way to recognize our one year birthday with their 20 year birthday and give them support to continue their work,” Stuart said.
Boys & Girls Club of West-Central Wisconsin CEO Karen DeSanto said the donation will fund the organization’s healthy lifestyle programs that in part provides food to children. “Every day after school we feed our kids a hot and nutritious meal through our Kid’s Café program and Tomah Health has stepped up from the beginning to help build the program and continue to support it,” DeSanto said. “Support from Tomah Health has been extraordinary”
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