MMC: A Rural Success Story

The success of a rural hospital requires that the people in charge know what services are appropriate for the community. That is what allows the hospital to be a viable organization.


“Memorial Medical Center has been fortunate to have a board of directors and department directors that have a keen sense of what the community needs. Then we determine what is the best technology to provide the service. If MMC adds a service, we strive to insure that service will be comparable to any other provider of that service,” said Dan Hymans, President and CEO of MMC.

Dan Gillis, Director of Radiology can vouch for that. When the hospital purchased its first MRI, it was cutting edge imagery and continues as such with upgrades. “The upgrade completed in September brought us to the forefront of imaging technology. The machine is so much faster. There are seemingly unlimited applications.”

Dr. Frederick Ekberg, one of seven radiologists in the department said, “I’ve worked in many rural hospitals, but I am very impressed by the quality of equipment and the caliber of physicians I work with here. I view images on the finest computer screen available when I work here.”

Making successful health choices for the community may have begun with Behavioral Health Services when the MMC Board realized the great need for alcohol and other drug addiction services and mental health services in 1975 and brought these services to the MMC campus. Twelve years ago there was a merger of mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment to form Behavioral Health Services of MMC. Financially the MMC Board has supported BHS because the services are recognized as essential.

At the 10th anniversary of BHS, Dr. Daniel Gardner, Clinical Psychologist with BHS and Clinical Director for Behavioral Health Services, said, ”Fortunately the MMC Board of Directors and administration had the vision to see the need to maintain quality behavioral health care in the greater Chequamegon Bay Area across the spectrum of need. They understand the moral and ethical imperative to provide these critical services to the community.” It is a theme throughout the hospital.

Rehabilitation Services staff includes eight physical therapists, one occupational therapist, a certified occupational therapist assistant and three physical therapy assistants. Each of the PTs has a specialty and added certification such as wound care, lymphedema care, vertigo/imbalance and core stabilization. All staff works with rehabilitation of orthopedic surgery patients.

Two of the PTs travel to area schools to work with young athletes on fitness and injury prevention. Another therapist works with pediatric therapy. As part of the hospital’s multi-year building program, Rehab has doubled its size and offers private rooms for therapy. The department recently added the Biodex Balance System used for fall prevention training and building stability in athletes.

Cardiopulmonary Services supplies respiratory care to all MMC patients. In addition, the pulmonary function lab permits the testing and early detection of a wide variety of lung diseases. Three types of cardiac stress tests are offered. Electroencephalograms are performed for persons with possible seizure activity, headaches, head trauma and evaluating response to medication. Recently one of the respiratory therapists became certified as an asthma educator helping asthma patients with lifestyle, medication, asthma attack triggers and control of asthma.

Hand in hand with Cardiopulmonary Services is Cardiac Rehabilitation, a service that builds the strength and health of people that have had a heart attack or heart surgery. No matter where a person had treatment for his or her heart disease, they can return to their hometown for rehabilitation. A variety of exercise equipment and patient education combine to build patient confidence in their ability to lead a healthier life.

Nutrition education at MMC started in 1995. At that time there was one dietitian with no set programming. Here in 2011, there are two full time dietitians and a diet technician who provide education at MMC and do outreach to the community. Among the three, they are certified in diabetes education by the National Certification Board of Diabetes Educators and certified for both adult and child and adolescent weight management by the American Dietetics Association.

The nutrition education team is involved with the Cardiac Rehab program, Celiac Support Group, the recognized diabetes education program, and pre-diabetes classes. MMC has had a recognized diabetes program through the American Diabetes Association since 1997.

The nurse educator with the diabetes program is not only a certified diabetes educator, but is also certified as an insulin pump trainer. Nutrition Services provides meals to patients and staff. This past November, room service with an expansive menu was added allowing patients to order what they want, when they want.

MMC received a completely new emergency department in 2007. The ED offers 24/7 physician coverage plus highly skilled and trained nurses. A Walk In Clinic recently expanded its hours from 10 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.

In today’s medicine about 65 percent of all surgical procedures are done on an outpatient basis. Outpatient surgery, also known as ambulatory surgery, does not require an overnight hospital stay. Seeing a rise in the trend, MMC constructed a Perioperative wing that also houses surgical services.

Perioperative Services provide care prior to surgery. Following surgery most patients go to recovery and from there are transported to the inpatient area of the hospital. Others return to Periop and are cared for until it is determined they are ready for discharge to their home the same day of the procedure. Last year 1,734 outpatient procedures were performed in MMC Periop Services.

Medical/Surgical Inpatient Services of MMC occupy the second floor of the hospital. People that have had surgery, such as an orthopedic surgery, or have a chronic ailment that requires inpatient care, stay in this area of the hospital. Nurses on this floor have training (many with advanced certification) to provide the best possible care to these patients.

Also, patient to nurse ratio is low to provide each patient individual care based on their need. Presently an addition is under construction to accommodate private rooms for all inpatients. Med/Surg includes Social Services that links patients to community services and plans a safe discharge for patients.

MMC offers a Labor, Delivery, Recovery, Post-partum (LDRP) approach to obstetric care. The mother-to-be enters a room that has a homelike atmosphere and stays in the same room during her labor, delivery of the baby, recovery from the birth and postpartum care. Family and partner participation is encouraged.

LDRP suites include a large picture window, private bath, rocking chair and a bed for partners who want to stay with mother and child. Though the room may look like a bedroom, it is a state-of-the-art delivery room. All necessary instrumentation is within reach of the attending staff. Last year 208 babies were born at MMC.

It is the staff of MMC that makes the hospital strong and Pharmacy Services is one example. “Our major department asset is my staff, their years of experience, and their advanced technician certification. Our chemotherapy collaboration with Essentia Health has been a real asset to the community that allows MMC patients to be treated in the community,” said Bill Mattila.

“Bill has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. He arrived at a time (1990) when medication management was fast becoming a much more critical part of patient care services. With the myriad of new drugs coming to market, it was ever more important to have the skills and training needed to manage patient medications. Today, he oversees complex medication issues we deal with at MMC. With this complexity has come the introduction of new computer systems to better manage all of the drugs our patients receive and help physicians work through the many options that can be available to our patients,” said Hymans.

Success in Laboratory Services of MMC is achieved by providing services that support the mission and vision of the hospital. For the lab, this means being able to produce precise, highly accurate, diagnostic information to the physician to aid in the care of the patient.

“Contributing to this continued success, were the recent renovations to the laboratory’s workspace. Improving the timeliness of test results can be attributed to this more efficient workflow. Recent upgrades to the lab’s analytical equipment, has also contributed to the lab’s success by providing an enhanced test menu and allowing more testing to be performed on site.,” said Barb Urbaniak Yox, Director of Laboratory Services. Like the pharmacy, success can be seen in MMC’s continued efforts to attract and retain an experienced staff of laboratory professionals.

Wrapping all of the hospital departments together is Information Systems of MMC. Presently the never seen internal communication system of the hospital is nearing the completion of conversion to the nationally mandated, and globally essential, electronic medical record.

The success story of MMC is actually a multitude of success stories housed on one campus. It is a success story of not only keeping in step with medical evolution, but staying one step ahead, as MMC serves its rural population.