INSIGHT ON: Economic Development – Expanding their reach

Posted on Mar 1, 2014 :: Economic Development , Insight On
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer
Community Health Network, operator of a small hospital in Berlin and 10 regional clinics, will join forces with Appleton-based ThedaCare to strengthen itself and the way it provides health care to its patients. Photo courtesy of Community Health Network.

Community Health Network, operator of a small hospital in Berlin and 10 regional clinics, will join forces with Appleton-based ThedaCare to strengthen itself and the way it provides health care to its patients. Photo courtesy of Community Health Network.

One of the largest employers in the tri-county area is getting a new owner, but the change is designed to improve the health care delivered in the region.

In mid-January, Community Health Network (CHN), which operates a small hospital in Berlin and 10 area clinics, announced it would become part of Appleton-based ThedaCare. CHN employs 800 and has clinics in Green Lake, Waushara, Marquette and Fond du Lac counties in addition to the hospital in Berlin. ThedaCare is the New North’s largest employer with 6,100 employees. It operates five hospitals including Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah.

John Feeney, CEO and president of CHN, says the change improves care for area residents since ThedaCare will install its Epic electronic medical record system in CHN facilities.

“The electronic medical records on one platform will create seamless patient care and information will be easily shared as patients move from one facility to the next, such as from a clinic to the hospital,” he says. “When our board was looking at partners, we wanted someone that put patients in the center of what they do and ThedaCare does that.”

As for ThedaCare, CEO and President Dean Gruner says expanding the organization’s footprint was a natural with Berlin being just over 35 minutes from Theda Clark in Neenah.

“The move helps support services at Theda Clark and Appleton Medical Center,” he says. “It really struck us when we met with them that two of the physicians were talking to us about improving patient care, which is what drives us. It got our attention and we thought ‘this is definitely someone we want to work with.’”

As CHN looked for a partner —economic pressures make it difficult for small health care providers to remain independent — Feeney met with officials in New London, Waupaca and Shawano, where ThedaCare operates rural hospitals, and came away impressed. “Everyone was working together to improve the health of the community and the care being offered,” he says.

Gruner says area patients can still expect to get more than 90 percent of their health care needs met locally. “Our philosophy is to offer as much care locally to patients as possible and keep their health care close to home,” he says.

As part of the acquisition, which is expected to be complete by the summer, CHN’s employees will fall under ThedaCare’s no-layoff policy, which Feeney says is welcome in the community. “Some places come together and jobs start getting slashed. ThedaCare will work with people and retrain or redeploy them as needed,” he says. “We have always done a good job managing our resources and that will continue. We want to do what’s best for our patients.”

 

Expanding opportunities

ThedaCare isn’t the only organization jumping into a new market. Several manufacturers in the tri-county region are looking to expand their reach as well with help from Bill Wheeler, executive director of the Tri-County Economic Development Corp. He is looking to start groups to help companies interested in getting involved in government contract work or begin exporting.

“Some businesses are interested in these areas, but are worried about the red tape,” he says. “We want to do what we can to help them get started and help them grow their business.”

John Whitever of TW Design & Manufacturing in Montello connected with Wheeler and volunteered to help other businesses get involved with contract work. His company has worked with the U.S. Department of Defense for several years.

“There’s a lot of opportunities out there to sell to the government, but it’s a lot of work,” Whitever says.

In addition to the extra paperwork, there are on-site inspections and products need to be packaged a certain way. “One idea I had was that if I go out and see they need a part I know a company around here can do, that we would work with them to get it done,” he says. “We would help grow the supply chain.”

Wheeler plans to tap into the newly formed Global New North network to find resources for companies seeking to get involved in exporting. “We want to help companies expand their markets and grow, which will then strengthen the region’s economy.”

TCEDC is now reaching out to some businesses that may benefit from learning more about exporting or government contract work. “We’re just starting this, but there’s a lot of potential,” Wheeler says.

ON THE WEB

Tri-County Economic Development Corp:  www.tcredc.org