Western Wisconsin Health Celebrates Expansion Groundbreaking

On Saturday, November 18th Western Wisconsin Health (WWH) hosted their Obstetrics and Medical Surgical Expansion Groundbreaking event.  Over 150 WWH employees, family, friends, community members, funding partners, donors, politicians, and members of the local media attended this momentous occasion.

The ceremony was opened by WWH, Chief Executive Officer, Eilidh Pederson, MPH, FACHE who thanked attendees for joining WWH to commemorate the launch of construction services for the expansion of WWH’s inpatient department, specifically the medical surgical department and labor and delivery unit.  Pederson shared that while the building is impactful, it is the WWH heroes who deliver babies, who care for the sick and treat patients as friends, that is truly what the reason for gathering and celebration. She went on to share that WWH team members live their mission of building a healthier tomorrow, together each day by doing the right thing for the community and keeping patients at the center of all decisions.  When nearby birth centers have shuttered their services, WWH is doubling down and is growing women’s health and labor and delivery services. Pederson stated that WWH has seen a rise in hospitalizations required for patients and as a result, WWH is adding four Medical Surgical rooms and three Labor and Delivery rooms. She shared that obstetrical care is at a crisis point in rural America and here in rural Wisconsin it is no different. More than 50% of rural hospitals no longer deliver babies, and over the last decade 200 rural hospitals have closed their maternity wards. Within a 60-mile radius of Baldwin, four hospitals no longer deliver babies adding to the obstetrical desert barriers in our region. Pederson passionately said “Every patient deserves the right to bring precious life into this world and every family deserves that peace of mind.

Pederson then thanked the many funders for supporting the expansion and introduced Senator Tammy Baldwin who supports our community and region, with $1 million dollars of bipartisan congressionally directed spending. Pederson graciously thanked Senator Baldwin for her support and introduced the Senator to the podium.

Senator Tammy Baldwin opened her speech joking that it was wonderful for her to visit her namesake village of Baldwin.  The Senator quickly switched gears and recognized the seriousness of the current challenges that Rural Wisconsin faces in providing high quality medical care close to home.   Senator Baldwin said “Too often, I hear from Wisconsinites in our rural communities who are faced with limited health care options, and we have to do more to ensure good care is within reach.  That’s why I am proud to support Western Wisconsin Health’s expansion and am working to bring home $1 million in federal support. With this new facility, Western Wisconsin Health will have the space, resources, and state-of-the-art equipment it needs to expand high quality care to patients and their growing families.”  Senator Baldwin shared that she would continue to keep fighting to keep crucial investments like this included in their measure to ensure patients across the region have access to good healthcare for years to come.  The Senator then introduced WWH Boad member and local Veterinarian Danielle Johnson.

Danielle Johnson, DVM owner of Homestead Veterinary Clinic, opened her speech by sharing her story about when she opened her Clinic in Baldwin and why she joined the WWH Board nine years ago.   She said she feels like this expansion is a full circle moment as less than a decade later this beautiful hospital is a reality and is already expanding.  Johnson shared that she has witnessed amazing progress in the quality of medical care and the breadth of services delivered at WWH.  She told a touching story about how WWH was able to help a new employee of hers get the medical answers and treatment she needed.  Johnson ended with stating “It’s not hard to see the interdependence of our citizens, our businesses and schools and the services provided by WWH.  Our physical and financial health is intertwined.  I would like to thank everyone here today for what you do to keep our community thriving.  It takes all of us, and if anyone is interested in learning more about serving on the WWH Board of Directors, please reach out.  I believe I can speak for other board members as well; it is a great experience.”  Dr. Johnson then introduced the WWH Chief of Obstetrics, Dennis Hartung, MD, FACOG, OB/GYN.

Dr. Hartung shared that he has lived in the area for 19 years and joined WWH almost 9 years ago.  He shared that on average every 36 hours a baby is born at WWH and that two birth rooms isn’t enough to support this growth.  He stated that this growth is supported by four Certified Nurse Midwives, two Obstetricians and several family physicians that support birth and family care.  He also acknowledged the support staff from top to bottom that are all imperative in providing the exceptional care patients have come to expect at WWH.  Dr. Hartung shared that WWH is committed to being a beacon for showing that small communities can make this work.  He recognized that we must continue to fight for and support our small community healthcare facilities.  “This is one of the many reasons we can’t limit access in rural areas.  Women deserve to have good safe care and care that is desirable in small communities” Dr. Hartung heartfully said.  Dr. Hartung then introduced the WWH Chief of Staff, Faisal Anwar, MD.

Dr. Anwar opened his portion of the ceremony by talking about his deep sense of gratitude for the challenges the organization and the community faced together during the pandemic.  In a profession where change is constant, nobody could have predicted the profound impact it would have on healthcare and the acuity levels of WWH patients, seemingly transforming overnight.

Dr. Anwar reflected on the evolution of healthcare and stated that it is evident that the landscape of healthcare has shifted dramatically, compelling innovation and rapid response to an ever-changing environment.  Dr. Anwar genuinely stated “Today, as we embark on this expansion, it symbolizes more than just physical growth. It represents a testament to our dedication and the trust placed in us by the community. This expansion is not just about infrastructure; it is about our shared commitment to delivering exceptional care. It signifies our readiness to meet the challenges of the future head-on.  It will allow us to keep our patients in our community, to allow their families to visit nearby as they recover, and most of all to address the higher acuity needs of our growing community.”  Dr. Anwar then thanked the attendance and encouraged everyone to move forward in this journey with resilience, compassion, and a commitment to excellence.

After our honored speakers gave their messages of hope and growth, all attendees were invited to gather outside for the ceremonious groundbreaking photos and words from a few other speakers.  WWH Medical Surgical Manager, Alicia Myers, RN read a reflection poem written by WWH Development Manager Rosa Magnus.

After the reflection poem was read, VP Director of Healthcare with River Valley Architects (RVA), Erin Murray, CHC thanked WWH and the community for allowing RVA to design the expansion.  He recognized Market and Johnson, who are the construction contractors on the project and expressed gratitude for their hard work and dedication to making this project a reality.

WWH would like to thank Dave DeVille Entertainment for providing the excellent sound equipment, Suzanne Wynveen Photography for capturing the special moments of the day, Sue Auld with Tulip and Crow for the beautiful floral arrangements, and the WWH Eatery for providing the delicious food and beverages.  WWH sincerely thanks everyone in our community who partner with us to help achieve our mission of Building a healthier tomorrow, together.