Progressive, patient-focused healthcare ... 125 years, counting

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 community.

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 rehabilitation.

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 involved.”

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 Bluff.”

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.”

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!”