Where it all began
It started in 1893 with one man’s passion to help others. Doctor
J.S. Hess opened his medical practice in Mauston 125 years ago; and his
dream has evolved into what is known as Mile Bluff Medical Center today.
A legacy of change
In 1912, Dr. Hess opened the first hospital in town. Eleven years later,
a new hospital was built, and more medical services were able to be offered
to the community. In 1935, Dr. J.S. Hess, Jr. took over as the owner of
Mauston Hospital, which he ran for 24 years. In 1959, the city of Mauston
purchased the hospital, renamed it Hess Memorial, and decided that a new
building was needed so that a portion of the original facility could be
transformed into a nursing home. Seventeen years later, the needs of the
community once again outgrew what was available, so a new medical center
and nursing home were built in Mile Bluff’s current location.
As the needs of people continued to change, so did the medical center.
Mile Bluff Clinic in Mauston opened in 1981 (at the time, it was affiliated
with the hospital, but was owned and operated by the medical providers).
Then in 1991, Elroy Family Medical Center opened its doors. Over the next
five years, Mile Bluff built Terrace Heights Retirement Community and
Necedah Family Medical Center, and also added 54,000 square feet to the
hospital building. Five years later a surgery wing addition was built
on the Mauston campus; and Crest View Nursing Home and CBRF were opened
in New Lisbon.
In 2004, two new outreach medical center buildings were opened, one in
Lake Delton and the other in New Lisbon. In 2009, it was clear that another
name change was in order to better match the expanded healthcare services
being offered by the organization. It is then that Hess Memorial Hospital,
Inc. became Mile Bluff Medical Center, Inc.
Over the past five years, changes have continued to take place to meet
community needs. The medical center and clinic in Mauston integrated to
become one organization. Wisconsin Dells Dialysis Center was opened; and
Phillips and Raabe’s HealthMart pharmacies were added to Mile Bluff’s
continuum of care.
Throughout years, the organization’s name, location and services
have changed, but the focus on forward-thinking, patient-centered care
continues to be what sets Mile Bluff apart…and keeps it going.
Recent & upcoming changes
According to the mission statement, Mile Bluff Medical Center is committed
to providing compassionate and progressive care, improving the health
and wellness of the community, and going beyond expectations in healthcare
today and always.
As you can see from the organization’s history, adjusting to the
ever-changing demands of the community is necessary for longevity. Leadership
is continually challenged to assess services, locations, processes etc.,
in order to most effectively stay in line with the evolving needs of the
Some of the most recent and upcoming changes include expanded service lines
for pharmacy, durable medical equipment, orthopedics, emergency medicine,
medical imaging, laboratory, and infusion and cancer care. The availability
of same-day clinic appointments has also been increased. In addition,
a hospitalist program has been added; and the ability to care for more
critical inpatients is being worked on.
An additional exciting piece of news is that as of May 1, a transition
took place at Fair View Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. Ten of the
semi-private rooms have been changed over to private rooms in order to
better meet the needs of the growing population of those requiring short-term
The decision-making process
“Before any change is made, we put a lot of effort into ensuring
that what we do is always in the best interest of the patients we serve”
commented James O’Keefe, Mile Bluff’s President/CEO. “No
decision is ever made lightly, or without thought and concern for all
When considering whether to add, subtract or make adjustments to a service
line or department, teams are first formed to do research. National and
local data and trends are reviewed, and future projections are considered
before any suggestion for change is made. Once a team has a recommendation,
it is reviewed by the administration, and ultimately gets final approval
or denial from the board of directors.
Mile Bluff’s board is made up of community leaders who pride themselves
on making decisions that are led by what is right for patients.
Transparency in healthcare
If you have visited the medical center lobby recently, you may have noticed
a wall with three new digital signs. In the near future, these will be
used to display Mile Bluff’s goals, initiatives and progress. The
purpose of the display is to be open and transparent with the public about
the status of the organization, the efforts being made to continually
be the best for the community.
“The goals we set are meant to challenge our team to continually
raise the bar to be the best for you” explained O’Keefe. “We
don’t simply set goals so that we can easily meet them. Their purpose
is to keep us moving forward and to never settle for less than the best
when it comes to serving the community.”
He continued, “Although one of our goals is financially-based, by
no means is money our number one priority when making decisions. It is
the responsibility of the leadership to balance the needs of the community
with financial responsibility. This is what has helped Mile Bluff withstand
change and maintain the ability to keep and expand local medical services
for area residents.”
One of the major financial influences on non-profit organizations like
Mile Bluff, is the fact that medical centers are providing an increasing
amount of charity care for individuals who cannot pay for services. To
give you an idea of what that means financially, in the last reported
fiscal year alone, Mile Bluff provided over $5 million in ‘community
benefits,’ of which, over $1 million was charity care and $3.3 million
was the unpaid costs associated with Medicaid.
With this being said, O’Keefe stated, “We are still actively
working toward accomplishing the goals we have set for ourselves this
year; and I can guarantee that the efforts being made will continually
improve the exceptional quality of care you have come to expect at Mile
A bright future
In today’s healthcare environment, many rural medical centers are
being acquired by larger organizations. According to O’Keefe, “While
we appreciate and value the partnerships we have with these larger facilities,
our goal is to remain an independent medical center.” He explained,
“This allows us to continue to provide you with choices when it
comes to where you receive care for services that are not available through
Mile Bluff has a strong, 125-year history of responding to your healthcare
needs. The forward-thinking mind-set of the organization’s leaders
has been there from the start, and is one of the things that will continue
to help Mile Bluff maintain its legacy in the community for generations to come.
“We plan to be here to serve you today and into the future”
stated O’Keefe. “We promise to make the decisions necessary
to ensure that happens…even when those decisions are difficult.
Our focus will continue to remain on serving you. Thank you for trusting
Mile Bluff Medical Center, and for choosing us for your care!”