St. Vincent Hospital concludes 125th anniversary

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | January 15, 2014

Mission of Hospital Sisters of St. Francis continues to shape Catholic Hospital and its medical partners

GREEN BAY — Marking the 125-year anniversary of St. Vincent Hospital in 2013 not only was cause for celebration, but also an opportunity to highlight how five sisters of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis arrived in Green Bay in December of 1888 in response to an invitation from Bishop Frederick Katzer to care for the sick and the many advancements in health care and milestones that followed.

St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay as it appeared in 1913. (St. Vincent Hospital Photo | For The Compass)
St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay as it appeared in 1913. (St. Vincent Hospital Photo | For The Compass)

The number of sisters at St. Vincent increased to more than 50 over the years. Following the recent retirement of Sr. Jonette Devlin, that number is down to only one, Sr. Annice McClure. While the physical presence of the Hospital Sisters has decreased, the mission they established continues not only at St. Vincent, but at all Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) medical centers, including St. Mary’s in Green Bay.

“Our tradition has certainly been a Franciscan Catholic tradition and our mission is to reveal in body Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality Franciscan health care system,” said Therese Pandl, HSHS-Eastern Wisconsin Division president and chief executive officer. “That’s true of all our 13 hospitals — five in Wisconsin and eight in Illinois. Our core values are respect, care, competence and joy.”

HSHS strives to ensure that the Franciscan traditions continue through an annual formation and development series for lay leaders and a pilgrimage to Assisi (Italy) and Germany every other year for senior leaders and board members. Annually, colleagues from all levels travel to Springfield, Ill., home of the Hospital Sisters, to volunteer for a mission outreach week. The history of HSHS is also shared during orientation sessions for new employees.

Pandl offered a look at the health system moving forward in an interview with The Compass. She described 2014 as the “most tumultuous time in health care” due to changes in laws and regulations, especially the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“With all the changes in regulations and laws, we are going to be focused much more on health and prevention,” she said. “We already do that through the Prevea Lead Well program and the Prevea Gamechangers program. Beyond the commercial with Aaron Rodgers, the lives of the six people are really changing. We’ve had a health focus and I think that is going to continue to grow. The other piece that I see changing for the future is ‘One Family of Care’ extending to other partners.”

HSHS owns 50 percent of the Prevea physician’s group and partners with Prevea doctors. Other partners include Green Bay Oncology.

“As we look towards the future, we will probably not own or operate organizations that we partner with,” said Pandl. “We will provide service in a coordinated way with partnerships. Some organizations do not partner well. Partnerships not only require shared values, but they also require mutuality in terms of goals and metrics and sustained economics to be effective.”

The HSHS partnership with Prevea was formed 17 years ago. Future collaborations will not be at the expense of the mission of the Hospital Sisters, emphasized Pandl.

“What won’t change is our fidelity to our mission in our Catholic tradition and faith-based roots,” she said. “That’s who we are and it’s something special our hospital employees, physicians and board members resonate with. As we go through all these stages, we stay consistent with that base.”

HSHS has taken steps to help people deal with the ACA. Certified application counselors meet one-on-one with individuals.

“People come in very confused and frustrated,” said Pandl. “Our counselors explain things, help them understand their choices and make those choices so they get access to insurance. There are definite flaws with the ACA, however, it is the current law and it is our goal to make it work. The overarching goal for us is to try to get people insured. The evidence is overwhelming that if you have health insurance, your health is better.”

Pandl estimates that it will take three years to sort out the challenges of implementing health care reform.

“I’m concerned that there’s going to be an increase in charity care and bad debt for a while,” she said. “What we will continue to do is stay true to who we are and care for all patients and work out the financials later.”

The fragmentation of health care has also been a frustration for many patients, added Pandl. In 2011, EPIC, a new electronic medical record system, was implemented in division hospitals.

“We saw a decrease in extra costs,” said Pandl. “Within 90 days, our utilization of lab tests went down 4 to 6 percent between our different hospitals. We could see where you had a test six weeks ago and could use those results. We are also able to utilize the system with physicians who are independent.”

The medical record system allows patients to play a bigger role in their personal health care.

“Patients have to own their health,” said Pandl. “We see our staff as medical advisors as well as health care providers. Ultimately, it is many of our own decisions that impact our health.”

St. Vincent, Green Bay’s first hospital, opened on Dec. 15, 1888, in a 23-room house on Quincy Street and was equipped with just one chair and four beds. Facilities today continue to expand or be updated to meet patient needs. Ambulatory care is expanding at a greater rate than hospital care, although Pandl noted that St. Vincent Hospital is in the midst of a major upgrade to the operating room (surgery center).

What separates the division hospitals from for-profit medical centers?

“We’ve needed to balance relationships and business results to be able to sustain a mission,” said Pandl. “We need to be disciplined enough to be as good as anyone else in terms of quality and safety metrics and financial performance to deliver exceptional service. Everybody can have the same technology. Everybody can have the same quality. I think the piece we add is the hope and healing process.”

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