Our Transforming Tomorrow project continues to gain momentum

Winneshiek Medical Center is growing in many ways to meet the needs of the broader region. One of the ways that will be most visible is in their facilities with the Transforming Tomorrow project, which involves a major facility expansion and remodel.

Transforming Tomorrow is a long-term facility growth and improvement plan for Winneshiek Medical Center.  Expanding and remodeling the existing footprint, Transforming Tomorrow will provide:

  • A new, fully renovated birthing unit that features all Labor, Delivery, Recovery, Postpartum (LDRP) suites, and direct access from Obstetrics to Surgery for patients needing a C-section.
  • An expanded Surgery area to include larger rooms to accommodate new technology and an additional operating room to meet the growing volume of their surgical practice.
  • A two-story addition to house expanded primary and specialty clinics to the north of the current clinic building, allowing for additional access, growth, a better patient experience, and promotion of team based care.  

View from the northeast of our Surgery area expansion. This addition which will include larger operating rooms to accommodate new technology and an additional room to meet the growing volume of surgical practice.

The project costs are near $50 million and are financed in large part by low-interest USDA loans.  The remaining balance will be funded by WMC dollars and loans from local banks.

“We have recently received approval of the project from the Decorah City Council, who followed the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission.  Currently, we are completing final architectural documents, identifying our interim construction financing and then we will put the project out to bid in early summer,” says Steve Slessor, chief administrative officer, Winneshiek Medical Center.  “As always, final approval is needed from our Board of Trustees to proceed with all or even part of the project.”

As blueprints and plans are refined by architects and WMC staff, leaders continue to review costs of the project to ensure good stewardship of the invested dollars.  Slessor says, “It is our goal to identify opportunities to continue to reduce project costs in an era when construction costs are increasing dramatically.”

Once Transforming Tomorrow work begins, Slessor believes the work will take approximately 2.5 years. He says, “The architects are outlining a plan that will allow for work to progress with minimal disruption to patient care activities.  Patients will notice the construction, but we will ‘choreograph’ changes so services can continue at or near capacity.”

Winneshiek Medical Center believes the Transforming Tomorrow project demonstrates their commitment to their patients, staff, communities and to progress in general. Slessor says, “Our goal is to be the regional hub of health care services for an eight-county area.  We are investing in facilities, staff and technology, and are actively recruiting physicians to join the Mayo Clinic Health System primary and specialty care practice here at Winneshiek Medical Center.  These are exciting times to be part of Winneshiek Medical Center as it grows into the future.” 

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Germy gloves and scarves— oh my!

Winter is in full swing this week! Low temperatures with extreme wind chills calls for all the winter essentials. If you haven’t already you’re likely digging out your gloves, hats and scarves for the season. It’s common to see many runny noses, hear coughs and sneezes and be experiencing a sore throat this time of year.

Be honest, have you ever used your glove or scarf to wipe your nose and/or cover a sneeze or cough when a tissue isn’t available? Then you continue to touch your steering wheel, door knob, seat or shopping cart all while spreading those germs to others. This is called cross contamination.

“People use gloves to protect themselves from the elements,” says Maggie Busta, WMC infection preventionist. “However, winter gloves do not shield us from germs. Our winter gloves may carry e-coli, cold and flu viruses, such as influenza, and can potentially contribute to the spread of these. “If you are worried about touching public surfaces (ATM’s, cross walk buttons, shopping carts, etc.) it is best to remove your gloves first because it is easier to sanitize your bare hands,” adds Busta.

Winter gear picks up everything bare hands do, so it is best to wash these items weekly. Most germs will survive two or three days on winter gear, possibly longer. We don’t think to wear our clothes over and over without washing them, yet in colder weather we regularly wear our coats, gloves, hats and scarves when they haven’t been washed in months. Something to think about: when was the last time you washed your winter gear, or your child’s winter gear?

“Washing your hands is the most important way to prevent the spread of infection. It’s also important to eat healthy and have a good sleep routine. Carrying tissues and hand sanitizer with you can help keep you and your community healthy,” shares Busta.

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DBT Essentials therapy group helps people change their thoughts, emotions and behaviors

Winneshiek Medical Center is taking registrations for a spring session of DBT Essentials.  DBT Essentials is group therapy to help people change their thoughts, emotions and behaviors to improve their quality of life.

The 12-week group is led by Kara Crain, who is a licensed mental health counselor with 16 years’ of experience in the field and 10 years’ experience providing individual and/or group DBT services. It will be co-facilitated by Hannah Schroeher, a licensed independent social worker.  Crain answers some frequently asked questions about DBT Essentials.

What does DBT stand for?

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Dialectical means that two opposite ideas can be true at the same time: there is more than one way to look at any situation, there are lots of different ideas and opinions out there, and we can feel different emotions in the same situation. Behavioral highlights how we have to learn to change old behaviors, habits, and thoughts if we want our lives to improve. Therapy, in this case, is group.

Who is a good referral for this group?

This group is for people age 18 or older, who want improve their quality of life by changing their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.  The group works to improve communication skills, reduce impulsive behaviors, and have more balanced thinking.

What will group be like? 

Group is held one time a week for 12 weeks at Winneshiek Medical Center.  It is a classroom type setting all about learning new skills. It will have a maximum of 10 members and is an educational group. Sessions are over the lunch hour.

What cost is there for group?

Group is covered by most insurance companies, including Medicare. There is a $20 workbook to purchase at the first day of class. Financial assistance is available for those unable to cover the cost of the book.

Someone has suggested that I do DBT in the past. Is this DBT group the same thing?

No. A Full DBT program involves DBT skills group, DBT individual therapy, and phone coaching. Skills group in a full DBT program lasts around a year and covers more skills than this DBT Essentials Group. This DBT Essentials group is meant to be a snapshot of core skills over the course of 12 weeks. It’s a good introduction to DBT skills.

This sounds like a group I am interested in.  What do I do next?  

Call Winneshiek Medical Center at 563-382-2911, and ask to speak with Behavioral Health.  We will schedule an individual DBT group consult with you to make sure group is a good fit, discuss your skill goals, review group rules, and talk more about the basics of DBT.

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“Winter blues” may actually be Seasonal Affective Disorder

During mid-winter, you may hear people talk about the “winter blues.” In fact, they may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

“Seasonal affective disorder is a specific type of depression and is more common in winter months in our area,” says Claire Haedike, Psy.D., Mayo Clinic Health System psychologist at Winneshiek Medical Center. She adds, “The second most common type is summer depression.”

Many people experience some change in mood and functioning (i.e. fatigue, energy level, appetite) at the change of a season but generally people acclimate.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is different because it is a subtype of depression.  Symptoms of SAD are consistent with symptoms of depression and can last anywhere from several weeks to several months: feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day, having low energy, feeling hopeless or worthless, losing interest in activities you once enjoy, having problems sleeping, experiencing changes in appetite (especially craving foods high in carbohydrates) or weight, having difficulty concentrating, feeling agitated or sluggish, experiencing a heaviness in arms and legs, and having thoughts of death or suicide. 

According to mayoclinic.org, the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). Reduced levels of sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.
  • Melatonin levels. Changes in seasons may disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Treatment for SAD is important to avoid chronic or re-occurring depression.  Treatment may include light therapy, medications and psychotherapy.  These self-help tips can also be useful in treating SAD:

  • Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds and trim trees that block sunlight. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
  • Get outside. Take a walk or just sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.
  • Normalize sleep patterns: Schedule reliable times to wake up and go to bed each day.
  • Ensure you are spending time interacting with family and friends (increasing social support)
  • Make sure you are doing things you find enjoyable (hobbies, learning something new, etc.)

“It’s normal to have days when you may feel down,” says Dr. Haedike. “But if this feeling lasts more than a few days and you just can’t seem to get motivated to do things you enjoy, you should see your doctor.”

In addition, if you turn to alcohol for comfort or discover that sleep patterns and appetite have changed or you have feelings of hopelessness, these are all signs to seek help by making an appointment with your local doctor. If you have thoughts of suicide, please seek help now by calling the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or by reporting to your local emergency room.  

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Winneshiek Medical Center Auxiliary scholarship applications available

Winneshiek Medical Center Auxiliary scholarship applications available – Winneshiek Medical Center

The Winneshiek Medical Center Auxiliary is offering their annual Health Career Scholarship to residents of Winneshiek County interested in pursuing a health care profession.  The applicant must be accepted into an accredited health career program to be eligible. 

Anyone interested in applying should visit https://www.winmedical.org/donate/wmc-auxiliary for the application, or contact Winneshiek Medical Center at 563-387-3036.  The deadline for applications is April 1, 2023.

Keep Reading

Family Medicine: Health care through the generations

January 6, 2023

READ MORE

Welcome Bethany Stevens, ARNP

December 29, 2022

READ MORE

© 2023 Winneshiek Medical Center. All Rights Reserved.

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Family Medicine: Health care through the generations

Svestka’s

Kent Svestka, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System Emergency Medicine Physician at Winneshiek Medical Center, 1994-1997, 2005 – current with his son, Eric Svestka, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System Family Medicine Physician at WMC, 2020 – current.

Even as a young child, Eric Svestka noticed the “thing” his dad did for work was impactful to others. He recalls family outings where a member of the community would come up to thank his dad. Eric says, “I always knew Dad was a helper. People appreciated what he did and would stop us to share their gratitude for helping them through a challenging time.” Eric was a beneficiary of his dad’s help on more than one occasion growing up. He says, “I remember the time I flipped on my bike and broke my arm. I was in pain, and then Dad showed up. He crafted splints from old carpet pieces to stabilize my bones before heading to the hospital, but it was more his calm demeanor than his actions that comforted me.”

Although he considered other careers, Eric always returned to the idea of being a physician. He says, “I drew a picture of me dressed up in a doctor’s coat in Kindergarten – spiky blond hair and all! Being a
physician has always been the plan at some level!”

Kent says, “Eric really honed in his plan to become a physician later in high school and into college. He had the mental aptitude to complete the schooling followed by the desire to achieve it. I felt very proud for choosing the medical career, understanding his commitment and compassion toward others.”

Eric did not immediately identify his path within the medical field. He says, “At medical school we were encouraged to specialize. However, I grew up with and was surrounded by the idea that a person’s doctor was their go-to for everything. When exploring specialties, I found I missed treating the ‘whole’ person and found myself gravitating toward family medicine.” Kent adds, “I encouraged him to find a specialty that appealed to him, and to settle in a place that would make his family happy.”

Following residency, Eric practiced in Florida for six years before life brought him back to Decorah. He says, “I was working in a private practice in Florida and developed interest in improving the systems in which medical care is delivered. Mayo Clinic Health System as a whole aligned with my values and evolving interests. About this same time, an opportunity opened in Decorah and the rest fell into place.”

In 2020, Eric and his family returned to their hometown. He says, “It’s wonderful to raise my family here – in the community Megan and I grew up in.” Joining the same medical practice as his father was an added benefit. Eric adds, “Patients see my dad in the Emergency Department, then care transfers to me for follow up or hospital care. Some patients joke they ‘get both Svestkas’ for care! I like having Dad here, and the other physicians he has practiced with for years. I feel that having a multi-generational practice brings depth and understanding to the practice as a whole. We learn from each other.”

Locke/Mark

Kevin Locke, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System Family Medicine Physician at Winneshiek Medical Center, 1989 – 2022 with his daughter Anna Mark, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System Family Medicine Physician at Winneshiek Medical Center, 2021 – current.

Anna (Locke) Mark knew early on that when her dad was working late, he was doing so to help people.  Kevin Locke, M.D., has been a family medicine physician in Decorah since 1989.  Her mother, Mini, is also a health care provider, and Anna grew up experiencing a family life centered on caring for others, around-the-clock.

 “When Anna was in grade school,” Kevin says, “I remember coming home late again and the kids asking why. I explained that some health issues are difficult situations and it can be hard to decide the right thing to do. Anna said, ‘But Dad, your job is easy. If someone has a headache, give them a headache pill, if they have a stomachache, give them a stomachache pill.’  To her, at that time in her life, solutions were simple and my job was solely to help people feel better.”

Anna’s plan to enter into the medical field evolved over time.  She says, “Initially, I did not want to go into medicine because of the demanding nature I had seen from the profession as a kid. Over time though, my views changed. I realized being a doctor meant I would be able to continuously learn, use critical thinking skills/decision making, and also help people through a respected profession.” 

Kevin recalls the night Anna made the announcement to her parents.  “February of her freshman year at college, it started as a routine phone call. Then quietly came the confession…  in spite of ignoring and redirecting her feelings, she couldn’t deny it anymore and was going to be a doctor.” He adds, “After the initial shock, we were proud and joyful. My wife and I feel it is a great way to serve our fellow man, and now Anna shares in that.”

Anna graduated from University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology, and received her Doctor of Medicine degree from University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, IA. She completed her family medicine residency at Genesis Quad Cities Family Medicine in Davenport, IA.  As she completed her medical education, Anna and her husband, Alex, set their sights back on Decorah.  She says, “We wanted to stay in Iowa and be close to family. I liked the idea of working with my dad because he has always been supportive and I fully believe having a multi-generation practice makes me a better physician.  I think family medicine has changed over the years and we have a lot to learn from the generations before us.”

After 33 years in medicine, Kevin is retiring this December.  The piece of advice he leaves for Anna is a 1927 quote he read many years ago from Dr. Francis Peabody: For the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient. Kevin says, “Dr. Peabody’s quote has been a powerful and centering concept in my career, and what was true nearly 100 years ago still rings true today. Anna did several rotations with me in her education journey and I repeated and demonstrated this concept frequently. It’s the best advice I can give her, and after practicing with her this past year, it is apparent she is already there. Anna is deeply dedicated to her patients.”

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Welcome Bethany Stevens, ARNP – Winneshiek Medical Center

Winneshiek Medical Center is pleased to welcome Bethany Stevens, ARNP. Bethany will be providing advanced wound care to patients in the new Wound Center located in the North Building on the WMC campus in Decorah. WMC anticipates the Wound Center will be open to patients in January.

The Wound Center is a specialized service offering patients access to the latest techniques and procedures for the best chance for healing wounds in an outpatient setting. Along with Bethany, care will be provided by Dr. Schwickerath, who is a board certified wound specialist physician in addition to her general surgery specialty at WMC. Dr. Schwickerath achieved this certification through the American Board of Wound Management.

Bethany received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner from Allen College in Waterloo, IA. Since 2015, she has been providing wound care to patients in Independence, IA at Buchanan County Health Center.

“I’m looking forward to expanding this specialty service to our region,” shares Bethany. “I have seen first-hand the stress and burden carried by those living with a chronic wound. And I have also witnessed the impact that wound healing brings. That’s why I chose this specialty — to help patients heal and get back to living again.”

To learn more about the services and treatment modalities at Winneshiek Medical Center’s new Wound Center visit WMC Wound Center or call 563-382-2911.

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Mike Vermace of Decorah shares experience following a total knee replacement

Mike Vermace of Decorah was not surprised to learn he would need a knee replacement.  Having experienced multiple athletic injuries in his youth, Mike endured years of sporadic pain and tenderness.   An episode of excessive swelling of his left knee prompted Mike to pursue treatment.

“I came to Winneshiek Medical Center to address the swelling and saw Dr. Emily Connor in the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Department.  She told me that I could continue to manage the symptoms, but to truly experience relief, I should consider replacing my knee joints,” he says. Emily Connor, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon who practices full time at Winneshiek Medical Center. 

Winneshiek Medical Center Orthopedics & Sports Medicine provides:

  • Total Knees
  • Total Hips
  • Total Shoulders
  • Knee Scopes
  • Shoulder Scopes
  • ACL Reconstruction
  • Rotator Cuff Repair
  • Basic Trauma (wrist, hip, ankle fracture, etc.)
  • Hand Procedures (cysts, carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel, CMC arthroplasty, etc.)
  • Pediatrics

Mike soon scheduled the first surgery with hopes that his right knee would be replaced as soon as would be feasible.  He says, “As an elective procedure, I had the flexibility to schedule the procedure when it worked for my family.  When I was ready, I called to schedule my surgical consult and was seen by Dr. Connor the very next day.”

Most joint replacements at Winneshiek Medical Center are scheduled 3-4 weeks after the consult to allow time for pre-operative appointments and education.  Mike started with a class called Joint Expectations. He says, “The Joint Expectations class answered all my questions and addressed any ‘unknowns’ I had.  After that class, I was ready for my surgery and confident to be able recover successfully at home,” says Mike.

Mike’s surgery went smoothly and his overnight stay revealed an unexpected benefit of receiving care at WMC.  He says, “The transition from surgery to recovery to hospital nursing and therapy was different than I had ever experienced at other locations from numerous past surgeries.  The communication and flow of information from one caregiver to another was above my expectations.  All my nurses knew my pain control preferences and had listened when I shared I always feel cold after surgery.  They had warm blankets waiting for me.  The communication chain was excellent.  There was no ambiguity and I was a person, not a protocol.”

Mike has resumed activities he’s been unable to enjoy for decades. He says, “I loved taking long hikes, but over the years, have gradually avoided them because of the potential for knee pain.”

Mike chose to receive his post-operative physical therapy from Winneshiek Medical Center Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine with physical therapist Judd Landers.  “The coordination between Dr. Connor and Judd during physical therapy was very clear.  She was monitoring my progress and Judd communicated her feedback to me at therapy appointments.  Again, in comparison to my past surgeries, Dr. Connor’s post-operative engagement was unexpected and wonderful,” says Mike.

Mike has resumed activities he’s been unable to enjoy for decades.  He says, “I loved taking long hikes, but over the years, have gradually avoided them because of the potential for knee pain.”  Mike adds, “If I could name the two overarching positives from my knee replacement, I would say the first is that I could schedule surgery for when it worked for me, and the second is that I have a renewed ability to do the things I love.” 

Following such a positive experience and successful outcome, Mike has scheduled his second knee replacement with Dr. Connor.  He says, “The quality of care, convenient location, and my confidence in the people and processes has led me to have my right knee replaced at Winneshiek Medical Center with Dr. Connor.  I am able to get everything I need right here at a facility that rivals, and at times, exceeds, the level of care in larger or specialized facilities.”

Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah is accepting new patients. You do not need a referral. For an appointment, call 563-382-2911.

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2022 Christmas Dinner ordering is now open

The public is invited to preorder Christmas Dinner meals from Winneshiek Medical Center. Meals will be available for curb side pick up in parking lot E, door E-1 on WMC’s Decorah campus. Orders for pick up are available every 15 minutes on Sunday, December 25, 2022 between 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Please select the “clock” icon in your cart to change the time of your pickup. “There is limited availability for each time slot, so be sure to book early,” shares Chad Wurtzel, nutrition services supervisor at Winneshiek Medical Center. “If you’re preferred time does not appear when booking your order this simply means that time is full.”

The dinner will include honey glazed baked ham, garlic mashed potatoes, whole green beans, corn casserole, coleslaw, dinner roll, cranberry sauce, and apple pie. Each meal will be individually plated, and costs $12. “This is the first time we’ve had to make a change to our menu,” shares Wurtzel. “Ham is being served rather than turkey this year due to the turkey shortage, and supplier issues.”

Order deadline is December 19, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. and payment is due when placing your preorder. Payments will not be accepted upon pick up.

Christmas Dinner order button

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SHIIP welcomes two new counselors in Winneshiek County

Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), a free, objective program that supports Iowans in understanding Medicare, has welcomed two new volunteers in Winneshiek County.

Ron Onsager of Decorah is retired from the sales industry, working many years for Weis Buick.  He has held numerous volunteer positions, and is currently serving on the Decorah Zoning Board of Adjustment.  “I enjoy interacting with and helping others and like to have purpose when I volunteer. Helping seniors navigate Medicare is a needed service that I find rewarding.”

Julie Ohde, also of Decorah, chose to volunteer with SHIIP because she likes working with others and solving problems.  She says, “We moved to the area five years ago, and I wanted to get more involved in my community.  As a SHIIP volunteer, I can partner with others in this community to help them save money on prescriptions, along with many other Medicare issues.” Prior to moving to Decorah, Julie worked as the County Conversation Board Director in Louisa County (IA). 

Ron and Julie each completed the State of Iowa SHIIP training in summer of 2022 and are seeing clients at Winneshiek Medical Center. They join current SHIIP volunteers Jim Sims and Karen McLean in serving clients seeking to better understand their Medicare options. 

What is SHIIP?

The Iowa Insurance Division’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is available to offer free, unbiased and confidential assistance to Iowans in this process.  Volunteer counselors can help people understand their Medicare benefits by:

  • Checking a client’s current Part D or Medicare Advantage plan to make sure drugs are covered at the lowest cost and with the least amount of restrictions
  • Reviewing a client’s employer coverage and comparing it to other Medicare options
  • Checking to see if clients are eligible for Part D “Extra Help”
  • Providing education to help clients understand options if not currently on a drug plan

Local Medicare Help

SHIIP counselors review all plans offered and do not promote any particular plan or company.  To help you compare plans during the open enrollment period (now through December 7, 2022), volunteer SHIIP counselors are available by appointment at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah by calling 563-387-3036.  In person, Zoom and telephone appointments are offered to clients.

For SHIIP support, call Winneshiek Medical Center at 563-387-3036.

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