TUE AM News: Wellbe providing virtual care options for birthing center; Judge decides against ThedaCare in employment dispute

— The Sauk County Healthcare Birthing Center is now offering virtual care options to expectant and new mothers through a Madison-based tech company called Wellbe. 

Sue Shafranski, director of birth and women’s care at the center, says using the company’s care automation platform “will allow us to give each new mom the care she needs without increasing the size of our staff.” The move comes as care providers across the state and country are grappling with a shortage of nurses and other health workers. 

Through the new partnership, pregnant women and new mothers will be able to access documents, education resources and post-care assessments virtually, cutting down on paperwork. The company says its solutions have collectively saved clinical staff thousands of hours across its client base. 

According to a release from the company, Sauk Prairie Healthcare is the first obstetrics provider in the Midwest to use Wellbe’s ConnectedCare care automation platform. It’s meant to be used during the 20-week period before and after delivery. 

“Education and preparation drive patient satisfaction and high-quality outcomes, and this technology makes it easier for moms to prepare for childbirth and care for their babies,” Shafrankski said. “Our goal is to prepare families and enable them to connect with the healthcare team throughout the process.”

The ConnectedCare platform is being implemented through an initiative funded by the Sauk Prairie Healthcare Foundation, with financial support from local philanthropist Lea Culver, the release shows. Specific terms of the support were not disclosed. 

Wellbe’s technology is used in a variety of other care specialties such as orthopedics, cardiology, oncology and more. 

See details: https://wellbe.me/new-moms-at-sauk-prairie-healthcare-embrace-trailblazing-technology-for-childbirth-planning-as-their-hospital-sets-a-record-for-total-annual-births/ 

See more at Madison Startups: https://www.madisonstartups.com/ 

— An Outagamie County judge has dismissed a temporary injunction blocking former ThedaCare employees from going to work for Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, freeing up the workers to do so. 

The decision came after representatives of both health systems and the employees in question spoke during a hearing yesterday, the Post-Crescent reported. The development follows Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Mark McGinnis last week granting a temporary restraining order. The order blocked the seven employees from leaving to work for the competing hospital after ThedaCare asked the court for more time to replace the members of its interventional radiology and cardiovascular team. 

In a statement last week following the initial order being granted, ThedaCare President and CEO Imran Andrabi said the health system had “tried to work with Ascension Wisconsin for additional time to execute a plan” for staffing coverage. But he said the health system was “unwilling to collaborate.” 

But Ascension argued it didn’t actively recruit the workers, who applied for open job postings. And it said ThedaCare “had an opportunity but declined to make competitive counter offers” for the affected workers. 

In a statement yesterday, an Ascension spokesperson said “we are pleased with the court’s decision” to dismiss the order. 

“We welcome our newest associates. We will continue to support our healthcare workers and staff and we thank them for their tireless dedication to providing high quality, compassionate care to our communities.”

ThedaCare did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

See more in Top Stories below. 

— More than 5.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment have been distributed in Wisconsin so far this year, Gov. Tony Evers announced. 

A release from the guv’s office shows 5.4 million N95 or K95 respirator masks have been provided to 130 locations across the state since the beginning of the year. Of that number, 3.35 million were distributed last week alone. 

Meanwhile, over 533,000 of these masks have been distributed to school districts in Wisconsin, including 400,000 masks just last week. Other recipients include community organizations, first responders and local and tribal health departments. 

In a statement, Evers says ensuring access to PPE for state residents “is key to helping keep people safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring our kids continue learning in the classroom, our small businesses and main streets recover, and our workers to stay on the job.”

The Department of Health Services has instructions on its website for how health departments, health care providers and schools can request masks from the DHS stockpile, which also has other PPE available such as gloves and gowns. But the agency says requests should only be submitted “after all other options are exhausted.” 

See more on the stockpile here: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/ppe.htm 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/gov-evers-announces-more-than-5-4-million-pieces-of-ppe-distributed-so-far-in-2022/ 

— The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state has decreased to 11,127 as daily case counts and hospitalizations have been falling in recent days. 

The decrease follows several weeks of rapidly escalating case numbers, with a peak in the seven-day average of 18,892 cases per day on Jan. 19. 

Health officials earlier this month had pointed to data suggesting the surge in cases caused by the omicron variant would be peaking in mid-January. But it’s unclear if the decline seen over the past five days or so indicates that case numbers will continue to fall. 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard continues to show falling COVID-19 hospitalizations. A total of 2,021 people in the state are currently hospitalized with the virus, including 425 intensive care patients. Over the past seven days, those numbers have fallen by 234 and 60, respectively. 

WHA also reports that 94 of the state’s 1,511 ICU beds were immediately available at last count, marking an improvement over capacity figures seen in recent weeks. 

Still, the seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths in the state stands at 29 deaths per day. The rate has seen a small increase over the past several weeks amid the rising case numbers. A total of 10,812 people in the state have died due to COVID-19, the DHS site shows. 

See the latest case numbers here: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/cases.htm 

See the WHA dashboard here: https://www.whainfocenter.com/Covid-19Update 

— DATCP has designated over 61,000 acres in Buffalo and Douglas counties agricultural enterprise areas, bringing the state’s total to 45. 

AEAs in Wisconsin now cover more than 1.5 million acres spanning sections of 126 towns and 30 counties as well as the Bad River Reservation, according to the agency. 

The new area in Douglas County covers 32,000 acres in the towns of Parkland, Amnicon, Cloverland, Lakeside and Maple, as well as the village of Poplar. The designation was granted after 12 landowners, local government entities and other partners submitted a petition. 

Meanwhile, the Buffalo County AEA includes over 29,000 acres in the town of Montana. The petition included 29 local landowners. 

These designations enable landowners within the area to join “voluntary farmland preservation agreements,” which include commitments to use land for agricultural use while maintaining conservation standards for water and soil. Plus DATCP notes they “may be eligible” to claim an annual farmland preservation tax credit, depending on various requirements. 

See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/dept-of-agriculture-trade-and-consumer-protection-datcp-designates-agriculture-enterprise-areas-in-douglas-buffalo-counties/ 

See details on the preservation tax credit: https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/FPTaxCredits.aspx 

— Monroe County is getting a brownfields grant from the Department of Natural Resources for investigating potential environmental contamination at two former railroad sites. 

The funding comes through the agency’s Wisconsin Assessment Monies program, which can provide contractor services worth up to $35,000 for assessing abandoned, idle or underused properties like these. 

A release shows the county acquired the vacant properties through tax delinquency proceedings in 2016 after an environmental contractor first identified soil contamination at the sites in 2008. These properties are near an existing railroad corridor and were used for storage of coal and lumber. 

With the new grant, a contractor will examine the site to “identify the degree and extent of contamination” to help the county determine what should be done with the sites. 

“Conducting an environmental assessment of brownfield properties is an important first step towards revitalization and reuse,” said Jodie Peotter, head of the DNR’s Brownfields, Outreach and Policy Section, Remediation and Redevelopment Program. 

The Wisconsin Assessment Monies program has provided about $2.8 million to 71 communities in the state since 2009, the release shows. 

See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/dept-of-natural-resources-dnr-awards-brownfields-grant-to-monroe-county/ 


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– Judge lifts injunction in ThedaCare, Ascension worker dispute


– Judge sides with Ascension, employees can begin work immediately

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– Rockwell Automation names new president for Americas Region


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– VP Harris touts replacing lead lines during Milwaukee stop


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– DNR grilled about possible expansion of massive factory farm



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– Governor urges 1.6 million residents to apply for broadband assistance



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<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

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