February 20, 2010

Letter to the Editor: Head of anesthesiologist group says nurse anesthetists are safe

Dr. Robert F. Koebert, president of the Wisconsin Society of Anesthesiologists, says in a letter to RacinePost that the Wheaton-Franciscan's decision to provide anesthesiology services with a combination of doctors and nurses is a safe model that is used throughout the country.

His comments are similar to comments from Lawrence Beck, president of the Wisconsin Association of Nurse Anesthetists, we reported on Jan. 4 when it was first revealed publicly that Wheaton had cut ties with its anesthesiologists and was replacing them with a private contractor from Florida. (The JT picked up on the story this week - over a month later.)

Local surgeons are concerned about the switch, saying it reduces the quality of service provided to surgical patients.

Here's Dr. Koebert's letter:
There has been a recent change in the delivery of anesthesiology services at Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints Hospital in Racine. Questions have been raised as to whether or not these changes compromise the quality and safety of patient care in that institution. As President of the Wisconsin Society of Anesthesiologists I wanted to take this opportunity to address these concerns.

Though the Milwaukee area tends to be dominated by a model of anesthesia care being delivered entirely by physician anesthesiologists, the most common method of care across the state and, indeed, the country utilizes what is known as the “anesthesia care team”. This model utilizes physician anesthesiologists in conjunction with non-physician anesthesia providers such as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA’s) and Anesthesiologist Assistants (AA’s).

The anesthesia care team is directed by a physician anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist is responsible for managing anesthesia care team personnel, pre-anesthetic evaluation of patients, prescribing the anesthesia plan, managing the anesthetic and participating in critical parts of the anesthetic and post-anesthesia care. The anesthesiologist remains immediately available to assist with management at any point in the anesthesia care. Medicare standards would allow one anesthesiologist to direct up to four procedures simultaneously. The Wheaton model being utilized allows for a single anesthesiologist to direct no more than two anesthetics at a time.

Surgery is a complex endeavor and the relationships between all members of the team are very important to the care of the patient. An abrupt change in the dynamics of the surgical team may well be disconcerting but the model of care outlined for Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints is one that is associated with high quality patient care and is fully supported by the American Society of Anesthesiologists as well as the Wisconsin Society of Anesthesiologists.

Robert F. Koebert, M.D.

Doctor: 'Corporate model' doesn't work for individual practices

A doctor who attended last week's meeting with Wheaton Franciscan executives is suggesting The Journal Times misrepresented his statement about the meeting.

Dr. Dennis Anderson was quoted in the JT's Feb. 16 story, "All Saints doctors, administrators make plans to move forward together." Some doctors have criticized the story for downplaying the concerns of physicians considering a split from Wheaton to form their own medical group in Racine.

Anderson was a critical source in the story because he represented a group of about 50 doctors considering a split from Wheaton; most other doctors at the meeting were not part of the dissident group. The JT paraphrased Anderson in the story as saying he favored reaching an agreement "within the hospital's current corporate model."

Here are the relevant paragraphs:
Orthopedic physician Dennis Andersen summed up the doctors' position, saying they are frustrated that doctor-patient relationships have been clouded by corporate management, which creates patient disengagement with the hospital and means some patients are not seen soon enough or cannot spend enough time with a doctor. Anderson said doctors are also frustrated that doctor-administrator relationships have been clouded by distrust. He said those frustrations boiled over last week.

Andersen is among those who are weighing all options including cutting ties with Wheaton. But after the Tuesday meeting he is hopeful an agreement can be reached within the hospital's current corporate model.
Anderson said the paraphrasing did not accurately reflect the statement he gave the JT. He provided the full statement to the RacinePost for readers to consider:
I have been asked numerous times if my quote in the Journal Times following our meeting on Tuesday Feb 16th was accurate. The full statement given to the Journal Times was as follows:
First of all, I would make a distinction between quality of care and quality of service. Quality of care in Racine, such as the ability to replace one’s hip, deliver a healthy baby, or diagnose and treat an infection is as high as ever. The quality of service, however, has suffered greatly of late.
When you visit you doctor, you have an innate sense of what an ideal visit should be like. You call for an appointment and someone answers the phone promptly. You get an appointment right away. You spend time with the doctor, and he or she listens, diagnoses the issue and recommends an effective treatment. However, when the reality differs greatly from that ideal, then there’s a problem. If the reality is that you call and get a machine and you have to leave a message, that doesn’t get returned for hours; you don’t get an appointment for 3 weeks; your doctor rushes through you appointment with little communication, and has very little time to spend with you to diagnose and treat the problem, you feel disengaged from your doctor.
By the same token, when we, as employed physicians, approach our administrators with an issue, we innately have an ideal encounter in mind. When the reality is something greatly different from that ideal, we feel disengaged from our administration. This is what boiled over at the meeting on Wednesday Feb 10th. The administrators have become more and more distant from our practices, and we feel more and more disengaged, until ultimately we feel that there is simply no control of our own practices anymore. As a consequence, our service to our patients suffers as well.
In the same way, when an issue arises in the office, I automatically think of what I would do to solve the issue if I were in, say private practice, where I could make all my own decisions. For example, if I have patients complaining about getting an answering machine instead of a live person answering the phone when they call, then I would get rid of the machine. If it takes too long to answer the phone, I would hire more receptionists. If waiting time for x-rays is too long, I would buy and staff another x-ray machine. If staff quits or goes on leave, I would hire temporary or permanent replacements. When what really happens in response to issues such as these is the same as my ideal solution, I’m in a good place. However, when 10 out of 10 times, the real response is completely different than what I would have done, then something is wrong. That “something” deserves a high level of scrutiny.
Over the 15 years of my employment here, it seems that the one thing that leads to this much discrepancy between what should happen and what does, is the ongoing need the follow a rigid corporate model. Corporate models may work fine for Hospitals, but they are not working well for our individual office practices. For example, so often, just as the physicians see that we should be increasing staffing to better serve patients, the system instead cuts staffing further, because that is what dictated by the current model or current budget, regardless of the impact on our service to patients. Electronic health records are only good if they match the best practices of an individual specialty. A one-size-fits-all system may work well for corporations, but the reality is that an orthopaedic office does not run like a pediatric office. To try to make them one and the same ruins them both. I find myself constantly repeating, “This is not what I would do if I were in private practice.”
What is clear is that the current corporate model is and has been failing to live up to the wants and needs of our patients for some time. The task of the group that met on Tuesday is to restructure that model. Exactly what form the new structure will take on remains to be seen. However, a great number of physicians in our group have simply lost faith in the corporate model of medicine. After all, if I have to continually say, “This is not what I would do if I were in private practice,” then one obvious alternative exists – private practice. This is the gold standard against which I compare all other models, so why not consider the gold standard itself? To return to the day when service put the patient first, any restructuring within a corporate model must closely resemble that gold standard. If not, we need to consider letting it go. After fifteen years of failed attempts, many physicians have simply given up on that tract, but we are willing to listen. It may be possible within the corporate “employed physician” model, but experience tells us that it is a very steep hill to climb. All previous attempts, despite good starts and with all good intentions, eventually evolved back into the same corporate hierarchy that we see right now. That is, except one – private independent practices partnering with a hospital. I was encouraged at the meeting by the fact that Mr. Buser has kept all models on the table for consideration – including ideals outside the corporate model. Including that of letting the physicians reorganize in private practices once again, so that we may provide the responsive type of care that we once had in this community.
Let me reassure our patients that talk of 50 physicians wanting to leave this community is exaggerated. We want the most effective and responsive type of medical care that we can deliver in here in Racine. We would seek partnership with Wheaton - partnership that works for everyone. This may mean separating from a rigid corporate structure here at Wheaton, but barring legal action by the Wheaton organization, no one that I have talked to wants to leave this community.

This was the full statement that I gave to the Journal Times. I will leave it up to the reader to decide if this was accurately reflected in their article.

Dennis Andersen, MD

Amid discipline issues, Park boys basketball remains undefeated

The JT broke a story yesterday saying the undefeated, No. 1 ranked Park High boys basketball team may be in trouble because of unspecified discipline issues. The grandmother of one of the players said it had to to with truancies, but an administrator said it was a record-keeping issue.

I happened to be at Park's game Friday night against Kenosha Tremper. Two key players on the Panthers were held out of the game in street clothes for an unstated reason. Josh Beaton and JD McGruder, each starters, did not play in the blowout 75-41 win over Tremper.

But even without the starters, Park looked great. Led by the stellar guard play of Tre Edwards, they blew out Tremper from the opening minutes.

The only question came toward the end of the game when backup forward James Orth dropped in a layup in the final seconds. Orth came into the game with five minutes left and the crowd had been cheering loudly for Orth to make a basket. To his credit, Orth played team basketball despite the crowd's cheers, and an inside rebound allowed him to score at the buzzer.

The basket sent the crowd into an uproar and a student and two cheerleaders hugged Orth after the game as the team celebrated the 34-point win, moving their record to 20-0, 12-0 in the SEC Conference.

At least one statewide poll has Park ranked No. 1.

February 19, 2010

Management company misses benefits payments to Racine bus drivers

City bus drivers received noticed this month that the management company that runs Racine's Belle Urban System didn't make the drivers' pension and health insurance payments in December and January.

Professional Transit Management, the company hired by the city to run the BUS, is about $90,000 behind on its payments. It also hasn't made the February payment, according to a source close to the drivers.

The drivers are members of Teamsters Local 43.

The source said Central States Funds, which manages the drivers' benefits, set a March 14 deadline to make payments or it will discontinue benefits.

Bus drivers said it appears to be an oversight, but they were unclear who was responsible or when it would be fixed.

RacinePost couldn't reach union and PTM officials for comment.

City Administrator Tom Friedel referred comment to PTM, which manages all aspects of the city's bus systems.

The city budgeted to spend about $9.1 million on its bus system this year.

The bus drivers and PTM had a contentious relationship last year over a new contract. The drivers briefly went on strike in May before settling a contract with PTM.

How do you plead on judicial endorsements?

How important are endorsements from law enforcement officers in a local judicial election? We're about to find out.

The two candidates running for the Circuit Court seat to be vacated by retiring Judge Stephen Simanek clearly have a difference of opinion about their value.

Atty. Georgia Herrera thinks highly of them. The more the merrier, it appears. She sent out five press releases this weekend, touting endorsements of her candidacy: from the Racine County Deputy Sheriffs Protective Association, the Wisconsin Troopers Association, Racine Police Chief Kurt Whalen and acting Burlington Police Chief Mark Anderson (and one summarizing them all).

The quote from Deputy Chad Schulman, president of the Sheriff's Protective Association was typical: "The deputies worked closely with Georgia during her eleven years as a criminal prosecutor in Racine County. Her law enforcement experience and good judgment are needed on the bench. She’ll work hard to keep our streets safe."

Herrera reinforced the message: “These endorsements come from working law enforcement professionals who work every day to protect the public. They know my work as criminal prosecutor and more recently as Court Commissioner. They know first-hand my dedication to hard work and safe communities,” Herrera said.

On her website, she lists the names of no fewer than 89 law enforcement officers as endorsers or supporters: police chiefs, judges, officers -- including 53 members of the Racine Police Department (as well as about 200 citizen supporters). Of course, sometimes endorsement can backfire; six out of 10 (admittedly anonymous) comments appended to our story about a pair of Herrera's earlier endorsers -- by Racine County District Atty. Micheal Nieskes and Racine County Sheriff Robert Carlson -- called Nieskes' support the kiss of death.

Meanwhile, Herrera's opponent, Atty. Gene Gasiorkiewicz, is taking a different approach. In a story in the Journal Times on Feb. 12 on the subject, Herrera is quoted as saying those two endorsements show that Nieskes and Carlson "have strong confidence that I can do what the community wants in terms of keeping streets safe and making sure that criminals are made responsible for their actions." Gasiorkiewicz is quoted in that story saying, "My whole campaign is about judicial neutrality. I am not seeking political endorsements. I want to run an apolitical campaign. ... I am trying to make this a nonpolitical situation. I think that's what the people deserve and what the position ought to be."

After we received Herrera's press releases this weekend, we asked Gasiorkiewicz -- who also is a former prosecutor and says he has "fine relationships with many law enforcement officers throughout the county."-- to elaborate on the endorsement issue. Here's a portion of what he sent us:
"I would like to directly talk about the issues regarding the endorsements my opponent received from some police unions, members of the law enforcement profession and some of her former colleagues in the Office of the Racine County District Attorney. It cannot be emphasized enough that those endorsements were made without the endorsing parties even bothering to ask me about my experience and positions on the issues. The fact that I was allowed no input demonstrates those endorsements were not based upon a thorough comparison of the experience and positions of the candidates.

"The judicial selection process is non-partisan. That means the merits of the candidates should not be viewed through a political lens. The most important foundation of our legal system is judicial independence. Injecting partisan politics into the judicial selection process undermines the integrity of the judiciary. There have been a number of Wisconsin judicial contests in the recent past where individuals and groups with special interests have tried to influence the outcome, often through mechanisms that involved distorting the record of the candidate they opposed. I find that practice abhorrent and it will not be part of my campaign. The people of Racine County deserve a neutral, detached and independent judge to hear any case brought before the court.

"The statute of justice is blind folded to signify that justice is to be blind -- all persons are equal in the eyes of the law. A police officer's son is to receive the same justice as anyone else. The selection of judges also works best when the voter compares candidates not based merely on their name or what political connections they have fostered. The voter should weigh the candidates in much the same way as the statute of justice signifies. Candidates should be compared not based on their name or their political connections, but instead the voter should determine whom to vote for based on weighing the relative experience and qualifications of the candidates... look beyond the politics that have become a part of this race and not let special interest groups determine who receives their vote."
Gasiorkiewicz lists no "endorsements" as such on his website, only 10 "testimonials" from state attorneys.

Do endorsements mean "a great deal... about qualified, respected individuals in the community showing support for a proven candidate," or are they "like bananas -- you can buy them by the bunch," as opposing commenters argued on the JT's blog?

We'll find out on April 6.

Hope, a puppy truly rescued -- if she finds a family

Look closely at this picture of Hope, an eight-week old female posed ever-so-carefully near a "Be Mine" Valentine by Maggie Skovera of the Countryside Humane Society.

Can you really resist?

Hope is a pit bull mix brought to Countryside after being found three weeks ago along the roadside. She was very cold and so starved she could not hold her head up.

Countryside warmed up towels and wrapped her up, held her for a long time. She rewarmed slowly and stood on wobbly legs to eat. Since then, she has been played with, petted, fed good food and given lots of love. Although she is still a thin puppy she is full of puppy bounce.

Hope will grow up to be a strong dog both mentally and physically so she will need an owner committed to begin training right away and maintain her training through out her lifetime. As Maggie reminds us, "A happy dog is a dog who has something to think about and something to do."

Are you the right family to see Hope blossom into the beauty she has the potential to be? Visit Hope at Countryside Humane Society, 2706 Chicory Road, or call (262) 554-6699.

RAMAC presents four Excellence in Education awards

Two Racine Unified educators, one from St. Catherine's and a program of the Racine Kiwanis Club will receive the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce Excellence in Education Awards.

Kathy Dunkerson, director of the Lighted Schoolhouse Extended Day Program, is Administrator of the Year. With RUSD since 2002, she leads the after-school program that serves 1,100 students in 22 buildings. These programs focus on children and who need extended school time for academics and for building social skills.

In the nomination, she was cited for her commitment to closing academic achievement gaps and giving students a safe place to continue their school day. “Sure, we can do that” isn’t just an expression for her, it’s a powerful point of view.

Jill Dickert, a math teacher at McKinley Middle School who joined RUSD in 1978, is Teacher of the Year. She was cited by her peers in the nomination “as a math teacher, as an advocate, as a leader and as a coach”. At McKinley, Dickert helped to develop the Lighthouse Program for Gifted Children and recently helped form an elementary level of the International Baccalaureate Program. As Jill says, “ All children can learn and all future citizens need to know how to think.”

Sister Rosaire Lucassen, Guidance Counselor of the Year, earned accolades from the students, educators and parents of St. Catherine’s High School.

She began her career with a Ph.D in Psychology and taught at Dominican College before coming to St. Catherine’s 22 years ago. She encouraged hundreds of teenagers to success in colleges and careers. Parents wrote that Sr. Rosaire deserves “a great deal of credit for guiding our sons in the right direction.” “Sr. Rosaire is a wonderful woman of God, extremely intelligent, compassionate, and a wonderful advisor.” The larger St. Catherine’s family all agreed, “We love and respect her…. And will remember her forever.”

The Program of the Year is “BUG” – Bringing Up Grades – sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Racine. The program provides recognition to students who raise their grades and encourages them to develop good study and learning habits. The program is offered at three RUSD elementary schools -- SC Johnson, Goodland, and Schulte -- in 57 classrooms to 1,300 students. Each child sets individual achievement goals and every success is shared.

“Because of the Kiwanis belief in our students, and their dedication to our community, coupled with their support for our teachers, they have made it possible for us to enrich our curriculum and help children do their best.”

The awards will be presented on Thursday, Feb 25, at the annual RAMAC Excellence in Education banquet at the Racine Marriott.

Carthage students protest anti-homosexuality speaker

A group of Carthage College students is protesting the appearance this weekend of a campus speaker opposed to homosexuality.

This morning they issued the following press release:
Carthage students unite against discrimination on campus

This weekend Carthage College is hosting a regional conference led and sponsored by Intervarsity. After an extensive investigation, it has come to light that the following speaker, Shannon Marion, will be presenting at this conference. Shannon Marion has stated that being homosexual is against God’s design, and therefore it is wrong. This will be at the core of his message that will be delivered to Intervarsity students that are coming from all over Southeastern Wisconsin.

Carthage College students will be taking action against this discriminatory message that runs contrary to beliefs of the majority of the student body, demonstrated by the fact that in one full day of action, students were able to collect 400 signatures against the event. Furthermore, the mission of Carthage College and the ELCA Lutheran Church of America takes a strong stance of acceptance towards all members of society, gay and straight. Specifically, the ELCA Lutheran Church of America, “encourage[s] discerning conversation about homosexuality and the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in our common life and mission.”

After five meetings that included students, administration, and conference leaders, the Carthage administration is providing a forum for this discriminatory message that runs contrary to the mission of the institution. It also creates an unsafe environment for the student community as a whole.

Over the next three days, Carthage students will be standing united against this speaker and his message. Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, Carthage students will be gathering at the Lincoln statue at the north end of campus to rally as a community united in favor of open dialogue that enables all sides to be heard. Members of progressive communities from Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago will also be in attendance to support the students.
Shannon Marion's Facebook page lists him as a graduate of Northwestern in 1987, in integrated science and physics, and an employee of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since 1989, where he is now co-regional director, Great Lakes West. Neither InterVarsity's web page, nor Carthage's, lists the weekend conference.

The LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin issued the following statement:
The LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin supports the First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, while encouraging opportunities for constructive criticism from responsible spokespeople representing different viewpoints.

Further, the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin stands behind these students in spirit and encourages them to rally others at Carthage College to create or re-establish a Gay/Straight Alliance (or other LGBT + allies-oriented organization) on campus that will advocate for their beliefs and concerns.

DRC gives four Downtown Achievement Awards

The Downtown Racine Corporation honored four merchants Thursday, naming them recipients of Downtown Achievement Awards.

The Best New Small Business Award, for a new retail shop, gallery or restaurant that has captured the attention of the marketplace and helped enhance downtown is awarded to Top Dog Hot Dogs.
Young entrepreneur and college student Caleb Robinson purchased his sandwich cart in early 2009 and started selling hot dogs, chips and soda in Downtown, mainly on Monument Square. He became a familiar sight at all Downtown events. As winter approached, Caleb decided to move indoors, where he is now located at 520 Monument Square Drive. The move extended not only Top Dog’s season, but also the menu, beyond what a cart could offer. Today, Top Dog Hot Dogs offers brats, polish sausage, grilled cheese sandwiches, italian beef, a turkey dog, and a tofu/vegetarian hot dog and more. As for his hot dog cart, Caleb says he'll bring it out next spring as a "satellite" Top Dog location.
The Downtown Showcase Award, presented for an exciting event that has helped attract visitors and improve the overall image of downtown as an exciting, dynamic, happening place, is awarded to “Downtown Carves Its Niche.”
Downtown Carves Its Niche is an annual ice carving event which started along Main and 6th Streets in Downtown Racine in 2007. The event was primarily introduced to increase foot traffic through Downtown in what is normally a very slow month for merchants. The event has grown in the past four years and has become another free Downtown event which draws visitors to Downtown and generates sales in our Downtown stores, galleries and restaurants. This award is presented to Mary Osterman who started the event and continues to chair it.
The Downtown Champion Award is presented to an individual who has been a catalyst in improving downtown; has provided service to the downtown community and has worked tirelessly to promote downtown. This award is being presented to Jeff Shawhan.
Jeff is the owner of Elements Gallery on 6th Street, an active member of the Downtown Racine Corporation, a new member of the DRC board of directors and overall advocate for Downtown Racine. He has been instrumental in resurrecting the 6th Street Artwalk and introducing it as an added attraction to Downtown’s annual Party on the Pavement. Jeff also spearheaded the new Winterfest Snow Sculpting Festival which was held on Monument Square in December. He was responsible for bringing 20 talented local, national and international snow sculptors to Downtown to participate in this new event. Jeff volunteers and gives to the downtown community, not for his own gain but for the greater good of all Downtown merchants.
The Corporate Citizenship Award is presented to a business that is the ultimate citizen, supporting downtown through employment, facilities and sponsorship. This year’s Corporate Citizenship Award is being presented to Racine Broadcasting – the home of WRJN and Lite Rock 92 One radio stations.
WRJN and Lite Rock 92 One have partnered with DRC for a number of years under the direction of Tim Etes, vice president and general manager. They have worked with DRC helping us “brand” Downtown Racine as Simply The Best. They have helped create new jingles which have been used in all of our radio advertising. And, each year the stations provide affordable advertising packages for DRC members. WRJN and Lite Rock 92 One are also corporate sponsors for most of Downtown’s special events providing on-air interviews, remote broadcasts and other promotions. They are truly a corporate citizen to Downtown Racine!

It's about time for Downtown ...

Harold Lloyd knew how to stop time...

For Downtown's summer art project this year, it's all about time. Clock-watchers will be all wound up. (Ouch.)

Having run through most of the more attractive mammals (dogs, cats and bears) and other critters (fish, otters and birds) and ...um, stuff (lighthouses, spheres and Adirondack chairs) in the past eight years since the public art project began in 2002, the Downtown Racine Corporation has turned to clocks for this year's public art project.

Big, round clocks. Analog, doncha know.

Participating artists will start with hour and minute hands centered in a large concave disk -- 28 inches in diameter -- and, if history is any guide, turn them into fantastically original artworks. That tell time. The clocks will be made by Fiber-Tech, a Franksville manufacturer who fabricates custom molded composite components. They produced the spheres for Sphere Madness, the 2008 art project.

As usual, artists will submit their suggested designs to DRC; those selected will be made and then displayed around Downtown from June 1 through August before being auctioned off. Artist design packets can be picked up at the DRC, 425 Main St., or downloaded here. The deadline for submissions is March 5. Artists will be given $100 to cover some of their costs. Cash prizes will be awarded at the end of the season to the best-of-show clocks as determined by a panel of judges. The first place winner will receive $2,000; second place, $1,000; and third place, $500.

It will be interesting to see whether the practicality of this year's project -- everyone can use another clock, right? -- will reverse the declining numbers of participants in recent years. The first three years of public art in Racine each drew around 150 artistic representations of the theme (dogs, cats and bears), but that gradually declined (99 fish and otters; 75 birds and birdbaths) and by 2009 we were down to 54 Adirondack chairs.

Of course, artists aren't all the DRC must corral; it also needs donors to pay the $350 cost of each entry. Sponsorship packets can be downloaded here.

In addition to the clocks themselves, there will be a contest seeking a clever name for the public art project -- like last year's Sunny and Chair Summer '09 Tour. Entries are due at DRC's office by March 5; the winner will receive a $50 Downtown Racine gift certificate.

Hurry up; the clock is ticking! (Not really: our clocks will be battery-operated.)

Public art projects like Racine's have their origin in Zurich, Switzerland, where decorated lions, the city symbol, were displayed around the city in 1986. This was followed there by "CowParade: in 1998... an idea quickly copied internationally as a fundraiser by other cities, notably Chicago in 1999. One of Chicago's cows made it to Racine, standing in front of Sam and Gene's Grotto on Main Street.

February 18, 2010

Racine's Welsh heritage to be celebrated March 7

Mayor John Dickert signed a proclamation this week designating March 1-7 as Welsh Heritage Week, as the members of the St. David’s Society of Racine & Vicinity announced plans for their annual St. David’s Day Celebration on March 7.

This year promises to be an especially festive occasion, as Dafydd Wigley, right -- a descendant of Racine’s D.P. Wigley and a prominent Welsh politician -- has accepted an invitation to speak. He was a leader of the Welsh HPlaid Cymru party, and is now Pro-Chancellor of the University of Wales.

The mayor’s proclamation acknowledges the major roles people of Welsh descent played in the city’s 175-year history, including David Paynter Wigley from Rhos Goch, Wales, who established the D.P. Wigley Company in 1895, and Mayors T. Gleason Morris (1939-1943) and N. Owen Davies (1987-1995).

The St. David’s Day Celebration will take place at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 40 Ohio St. The event, which will include the society’s 121st annual meeting, a Gymanfa Ganu (Welsh hymn sing) and performances by the 2010 St. David’s Society music scholarship winners, will also feature family heritage tables prepared by society members.

The church will celebrate its Welsh heritage during the 8 and 10 a.m. worship services and St. David’s Society members will serve kringle and punch to worshipers after the service in the church’s Gathering Space. The annual meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. No reservations or cost is required for these activities.

The reception will begin at approximately 12:45 p.m., with guests encouraged to mingle and enjoy the hors d’oeurves prepared by the Red Onion. Reservations are due by Feb. 28 to Sue Evans, (262) 633-7819. The cost is $10 per person for adults, $5 each for children 3-11 and free for children up to age 3. For more information about the event, including participating in the family heritage tables, contact Dick Myers at (414) 228-7466.

In addition, Mark and Chris Flynn, owners of D.P. Wigley, 234 Wisconsin Ave., will host a Welsh House Party after the celebration at the church. Those wishing to attend are asked to call (262) 633-8239.

Wheaton transfers two top executives out of Racine;
Dissident doctors had demanded execs' removal

Following a public revolt by 50 of its doctors, Wheaton Franciscan Health Care has reassigned two top executives at All Saints in Racine.

Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group CEO Dr. Loren Meyer and Senior Vice President Robert De Vita have been transferred out of Wheaton's "South Region," according to Wheaton Spokesperson Anne Ballentine.

Wheaton Franciscan All Saints CEO Ken Buser will take over leadership of Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group in Racine, Ballentine said.

The decision was announced Wednesday night.

A group of 50 dissident doctors considering a split from Wheaton demanded Meyer and De Vita be removed. Billing problems, low morale among employees and general mismanagement built the groundswell for Meyer's and De Vita's removal, doctors said.

"They ran things into the ground," one doctor said. "We basically told them last week if they had any chance of keeping us, then Loren Meyer has to go."

Here's the memo from Wheaton President and CEO John Oliverio announcing the changes:
At last week’s physician meeting in Racine, I listened intently to a number of concerns and made a commitment to work to resolve the issues that were identified. As a first step, I charged Ken Buser with working with the doctors to propose an appropriate leadership structure moving forward. Some of you are aware that Ken met with an informal group of physicians last night and made good progress in beginning to address concerns.

As a result of feedback from that and a number of other discussions, it has become clear that one of the primary concerns is the need for more consistent operational leadership for the medical group on the ground in Racine. Therefore, I have asked Ken to now oversee medical group operations in Racine in addition to his leadership of the All Saints hospital campuses.

As part of this leadership change, Carrie Duda, Vice President of Operations for WFMG in Racine, will now report to Ken. The initial phase of this transition plan is effective immediately and other changes will be forthcoming as details are developed. Dr. Loren Meyer and Bob De Vita will now focus their leadership primarily on the continued development of the north and central medical group operations in Southeast Wisconsin.

I am confident this change will be a positive step in rebuilding our relationship with physicians in Racine. As we work through these challenges, I know we are all committed to the common goal of providing the very best care possible for our patients in service to the community. And for WFMG physicians and associates in both Milwaukee and Racine, thank you for your ongoing dedication to our Mission. We value all of you and appreciate the work you do with patients and family members every day.

OP-ED: End the war -- on drugs

By Randolph Brandt
For RacinePost

I can understand a war for oil.

Great powers have been fighting wars for oil for more than a century.

Britain saw the need to occupy the Middle East to control oil supplies. The Japanese went to war over access to oil for its navy. Hitler was defeated when he lost his access to oil, and the Panzer armies ground to a halt in the Bulge. One of our greatest Racine heroes -- Medal of Honor winner Maj. John Jerstad -- died to cut off the oil supplies to the Germans from the Ploesti oil fields.

The United States needs free and unfettered access to the world’s oil if it’s going to maintain an effective defense and continue to grow the greatest economy in the world.

This has always been important; so important that, yes, it’s even worth fighting and dying for.

But going to war over opium isn’t worth dying for, nor is it worth placing our country at continued dire threat from well-armed, well-financed terrorists like Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Yet, we’re risking 15,000 troops to take over Marja, one of the highest-yield opium regions of Afghanistan, to wipe out a crop that pays for Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorism worldwide.

The life of one American soldier in Afghanistan isn’t worth the life of a single drug addict here in the United States.

That’s asking too much. It no longer makes sense to try and save these dopers from themselves, not when it’s costing the lives of our brave soldiers.

Nor is it worth it anymore to try to save a bunch of loopy marijuana smokers in California (and elsewhere) from themselves.

It’s destabilized the entire government of Mexico, caused the mistaken mass murders of a score of innocent students at a school party, and now it’s forcing thousands more Mexicans across our borders to seek asylum in the United States, ostensibly for their for safety from the drug cartels.

So, how we can eliminate worldwide terrorism, restore law and order in Mexico, secure our borders against thousands more illegal immigrants, prevent the vast majority of violent crimes and property thefts in the United States, end prison overcrowding, pay for health care for a generation, and settle our national debt, all at the same time?

We can legalize drugs, and then tax them.

I, frankly, don’t care if somebody wants to get stoned on heroin or get a buzz off marijuana, so long as they don’t hold me up on the street to steal my wallet to pay for it (or break into my house, or rob a bank, or murder police officers or finance international terrorism … and on ad, infinitum).

I certainly don’t want the inflated profits from the drug trade paying for terrorists who attack our cities, or for weapons of mass destruction to be used against us.

Once we legalized drugs, we’d cut off the billions (probably more like trillions) of dollars that fuel these deadly pursuits that endanger us all every day, worldwide.

Someone’s personal drug habit would then be cheap, like, $5 a day, instead of $500 a day, so people who use drugs would only be hurting themselves, not you and me anymore.

And one more rule: as with cigarettes and alcohol, they couldn’t sell it to kids, as they do now, with impunity.

VoilĂ ! Organized crime would be out of business, Al Qaeda would be out of business, the Taliban would be out of business, and your neighborhood armed robber and burglar would be out of business, too.

And, really, at what cost to society? Probably not much. Certainly not as much as it costs us to fight the War on Terror, keep an additional million non-violent offenders locked up in prison, or the $100 billion-plus we now expend each year on the War on Drugs, along with destabilizing a multitude of other countries worldwide.

I’m pretty sure Mexico and Afghanistan, among others, would thank us.

Face it, if some people want to spend their days in a stupor, what’s it to you and me, so long as they’re paying, say, a 20 percent tax on their pack of joints or their heroin fix?

That’s their problem.

And it would no longer be ours.
Randolph D. Brandt is the retired editor of the Racine Journal Times.

Wheaton executives see hope, but doctors remain skeptial

Was the meeting legitimate?

That's the question following Tuesday's well-publicized meeting between Wheaton-Franciscan executives and 10 local doctors to discuss concerns about Racine's primary health care provider.

Doctors who are part of a group of 50 to 55 physicians considering a split from Wheaton called the meeting a PR event that did little to address their concerns. They said Wheaton chose who could attend the meeting, and only one member of their group was invited.

"The press conference with (All Saints President Ken) Buser was a farce," one doctor wrote. "None of those physicians are in the group of 50. They were hand-picked by the administration."

But Buser said executives were "encouraged" by the meeting.

"All Saints leaders are encouraged by the spirit of cooperation at the meeting with the group of physicians in Racine," he said. "They came out of the meeting very engaged and ready to work together to resolve issues. We are very hopeful because we all want the same thing, and that's the best possible care for our patients."

Buser and the executives have a way to go to convince at least some doctors to stay. One doctor skeptical of Wheaton's administration described the meeting as "the first shot in a long battle."

They noted not all of Wheaton's approximately 130 doctors are interested in leaving. For example, pediatricians at All Saints make good money and work reasonable hours, giving them little reason to leave, they said.

But surgeons and other specialists have seen drastic pay cuts in recent years as caseloads have dropped. One doctor blamed the decline on Wheaton's efforts to funnel business to its new $89.6 million hospital in Franklin, which opened in 2008.

Specialists are losing patients with health insurance and seeing caseloads pile up with the uninsured, the doctor said. While it's important to treat all patients equally, the doctor said, the hospital as a business can't survive without patients who have a mix of income and insurance sources.

"They have to figure out a way to get people with insurance to come in," they said.

And while Tuesday's meeting looked good for TV cameras, the doctor added, Wheaton is still facing a significant problem. Discontent among Wheaton's doctors has grown quickly. Internal surveys that saw 90 percent satisfactory ratings from doctors five years ago are now at just 14 percent, they said.

[Note: Ballentine called to correct the survey numbers. She said Wheaton's survey showed 85 percent of its doctors were very or somewhat satisfied in 2005, compared to 69 percent in 2009. The doctor's numbers referred to a percentile ranking that didn't specifically measure physician satisfaction.]

While All Saints can likely placate 80 to 90 of its doctors, the remaining group of 40 to 50 doctors remains committed to leaving, they said. At least a dozen have already decided to go, and more may soon follow, they said.

"You've got to think outside of the box to solve these problems," the doctor said. "That's why we're frustrated. They (executives) won't think outside the box."

February 17, 2010

Civic leaders will be your server at Empty Bowls

Let's get one thing straight: The empty bowls at the Empty Bowls fundraiser do not stay empty for long.

Instead, the hundreds upon hundreds of hand-made soup bowls will be filled with delicious homemade soups made by Racine's finest chefs and served with bread and beverage.

This is a hunger-fighting event on two levels. Its chief purpose to remind us that there is always an empty bowl somewhere. And, of course, to raise money for the Racine County Food Bank and the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization shelter. Since 1997, Empty Bowls has raised more than $57,000.

Its latest incarnation will take place on Monday, March 1, with servings from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., all at the Masonic Center. Use the 1012 Wisconsin St. entrance.

Patrons will be able to choose a handmade ceramic bowl, enjoy live music, and your choice of soups and bread served by a panoply of Racine's civic and business leaders. Among the servers you'll find the mayor and police chief, council members, a state representative and school superintendent, a judge, the chief executives of RAM, Twin Disc, the Johnson Foundation and the United Way. Even Miss Racine!

Oh, and yours truly of RacinePost! (Mention that you're a fan, and I'll make sure your bowl is filled to the brim!)

Below is the complete list of servers, in case anyone wants to make dinner plans based on that. The cost for "a simple meal of soup, bread and beverage" -- and a hand-made bowl to keep -- is $15 for adults. Kids younger than 10 eat for $5; soup to go is $7.

Bring a canned good donation and / or an empty bowl from a previous year and earn an additional chance to win a special bowl set.

And now, here's the server schedule:

Early Lunch 11-12:30
1.John Dickert
2.Dave Maurer
3.Dan Taivalkoski
4.Donnie Snow
5.Pete Selkowe
6.Mark Hertzberg
7.Jim Spangenberg
8.William Mc Reynolds
9.Katie Oatsvill
10.Russ Weyers & Cheryl Thomas
Late Lunch 12:30-2
1.Mark Eickhorst
2.Robert Turner
3.Jim Kaplan
4.Kevin Cookman
5.Tom Friedel
6.Brian O'Connell
7.Tracy Nielsen
8.Maggie White
9.Bruce Pepich
10.Amy Heartal
Early Dinner 4:00-5:30
1. Monty Osterman
2.Andrew Meuler
3.Miss Racine
4.David Maack
5.Sandy Weidner
6.Jim Shaw
7.Jeff Coe
8.Karen Bayer
9.Christopher Oley
10.Laura Tomasek
Late Dinner 5:30-7
1.Kurt Wahlen
2.Midge Green
3.Aron Wisneski
4.Robert Carlson
5.Roger Dower
6.Betty Anne Dower
7.David Smetana
8.Steve Hansen
9.Dennis Barry
10.Mike Batten

Belle of the Ball Preparing for 5th Annual Boutique with Dress/Accessory Drive

Belle of the Ball is holding a dress drive on Saturday, February 20th from 9 am to 4 pm at 1805 College Avenue in downtown Racine near the lake. The drop off site is located on the East side of the street, not far from the corner of College and 18th Street and volunteers will be there to assist you in taking the items. If you would like a donation receipt, please let the attendant know.

"We are in need of gently used prom dresses in current styles," said Karri Hemmig, project co-director. "This means dresses purchased in the last four years that are clean and in good shape are most desirable. We are also in need for accessories such as shoes, handbags, jewelry and new makeup." If you are unable to attend this dress drive but would like to donate, the organization will be accepting dresses on March 5th and 6th at Wheaton Franciscan during boutique hours. Please visit www.racineprom.org for more information on hours and location.

Belle of the Ball is an organization that helps local junior and senior high school girls with the expense of Prom. "With the current economy, we feel the need will be greater than ever to help students and parents with an expense that may not be in their household budgets," said Krystyna Sarrazin, Belle of the Ball Founder.

Celebrating 175 years: History of Racine's hospitals

As part of our series looking back on 175 years of Racine's history, here's a look at the evolution of Racine's hospitals. All photos, except for Dr. Cary, courtesy of Jerry Karwowski at racinehistory.com

Dr. Bushnell B. Cary was Racine's first physician. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, he was born in Shoreham, Addison County, Vermont, and came to Racine on August 15, 1835. In May of 1836 he was appointed postmaster of Racine. Cary died on February 13, 1860.

For about 70 years, Racine had two independent hospitals. St. Luke's Hospital, pictured in 1906, was built in 1876 at College Avenue and 13th Street. Racine's first public hospital had 20 beds and cost $5,000 to build. Additions were added in 1901 and 1927.

In 1882 a group of Franciscan Sisters purchased the old three-story Blake House Hotel building which had been moved to 16th and Campbell Streets ( now Grand Avenue) They cleaned up the building and named it St. Mary’s Hospital. In 1889 the old building was moved and a new brick building was built on the site. The Hospital added additions in 1897 and again in 1906.

By 1928 a campaign was started to build a new hospital. The sisters purchased 13 acres off Kinzie Avenue between Illinois and Virginia Streets. But because of tight money the plans were scaled down and a new red brick building was completed in 1933 at the Grand Avenue site.

St. Mary's on Grand Avenue in the 1930s. On August 19, 1977, these buildings were sold to S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. for $1.5 Million. SCJ remodeled the hospital to house new laboratories for research and development, which are still in use today.

Groundbreaking for the present hospital began in July 1974. On December 5 of that year, St. Luke’s and St. Mary’s signed a memorandum to consolidate pediatric and obstetrical services. On Saturday August 20, 1977, the new St. Mary’s went into service.

In 1987, St. Luke's and St. Mary's agreed to combine services, and in 1991, St. Luke's affiliated with St. Mary's to create All Saints Healthcare System Inc. In 2006, Wheaton-Franciscan consolidated leadership of its hospitals and clinics in southeastern Wisconsin, a move that, for the first time in city history, removed local control from Racine's hospitals.

Earlier this month, a group of doctors upset with Wheaton's management threatened to resign and form their own medical group.

Big thanks to Jerry at racinehistory.com for his help in putting this story together.

February 16, 2010

Is payday loan regulation a partisan issue? Duh

The Wisconsin State Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill to regulate the payday loan business -- but not before rejecting a more stringent amendment that would have set an interest rate cap.

The so-called Responsible Lending Act, AB 447, passed on a 59-38 vote, mostly party-line. Twelve Republicans voted for it; five Democrats voted nay. Racine Democrats Cory Mason and Bob Turner voted yea; Republican Robin Vos voted against regulation.

The amendment which would have set an interest rate cap of 36% per year was co-sponsored by Mason and Turner, along with 18 other Democrats. It was rejected by a 56-41 vote. Mason and Turner were among the minority voting for the amendment; Vos voted with the majority that rejected it.

WisPolitics quoted Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald saying this is the wrong time to restrict credit, with unemployment high and people struggling to make ends meet. "You're taking a legitimate option away from people during the worst recession we've seen in 80 years," Fitzgerald said. "You're tone deaf to what's going on out there."

A prominent Democrat, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, who last session supported a rate cap but this session said a cap goes too far, voted to table the amendment. (No doubt, his dating of a loan industry lobbyist had nothing to do with his switch...because that would be wrong.) Sheridan did vote for the bill itself.

Mason said, “While AB 447 represents a great step in the right direction, and will move Wisconsin forward towards more stringent regulations of the payday loan industry, I felt strongly that Wisconsin’s residents would be most protected by a rate cap on the outrageously high interest rates charged by these predatory lenders.

“I have heard story after story from hard-working constituents, whose lives have been devastated by the vicious cycle of never-ending debt that can result from these payday loans.”

The state Senate now takes up its own payday loan legislation.

Andis will build 50,000 sq. ft. addition in Sturtevant

Andis Company will build a 50,000 sq. ft. expansion of its headquarters at 1800 Renaissance Blvd. in Sturtevant.

The expansion will create space for manufacturing and warehousing while generating job opportunities, the company said. Construction is expected to completed by the end of this summer.

"With pride, Andis Company has been calling Racine County home for 88 years," said Matthew K. Andis, executive vice president. "Partnering with the Village of Sturtevant, we look forward to fostering our mission to create value for our customers, community, and families; fulfill our passion for growth; and fuel our dedication to legacy."

Andis now has 107,000 sq. ft. of offices, manufacturing, assembly and distribution operations. The expansion will be on the south side of its existing building. The company, which employs 350 workers, has previously said the addition -- costing $2.3 million -- will create six new jobs. Andis has asked the Sturtevant Village Board and Community Development Authority for $130,000 in incentive money.

Andis Company, a four-generation family-held business founded in 1922, manufactures handheld tools to trim, cut, curl, straighten and dry hair.

RacinePost sets record audience numbers

Big thanks to RacinePost readers for making this our best week ever for page views and unique visitors. If this was your first visit to RacinePost, please come back and bring a friend. Together we'll build a truly local place for news, advertising, entertainment and community.

Gratefully, Dustin and Pete

A note on doctors' salaries ...

At some point in this story about Wheaton-Franciscan, someone is going to start looking into local physicians' salaries. I know, because we've started to do so, and other media isn't far behind.

But before we rush into public outcry over the millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars doctors make, it's worth noting a few things:

1.) Doctors are paid based on their billings. A doctor who makes $1 million dollars a year generates five to six times that amount of money for a health care provider. That's why they get big salaries - they bring in big dollars.

2.) Doctors spend 10-plus years in school racking up massive debts to become doctors. Not that we need to feel sorry for them, but doctors do provide a skill most of us cannot. As a result, they get paid more. Whether that's fair or not is a different story and debate.

3.) Every doctor makes mistakes, and some of those mistakes lead to death or further injury or illness. It's part of the business.

I bring all this up because the issue of doctor pay is going to come up soon. Two local doctors made over $2 million in 2008, making them the highest-paid employees in Wheaton-Franciscan.

By comparison, All Saints' top administrators make somewhere around $500,000 a year. It's all an insanely high amount of money, and the reflex will be to question why anyone needs to make that much money.

My hestitation in calling doctors or administrators out on their salaries is, well, they're the people who keep people alive. Maybe they don't do it as well or as efficiently as we'd like, but when it comes down to it, I want a well-paid, talented doctor seeing my friends and family members. It's something I wouldn't want Wheaton-Franciscan, or any provider, to skimp on.

But no doubt the bomb is coming on "so-and-so" made this, and "so-and-so" made that. We're ready to jump in the fray with lists of top-paid doctors and executives. Hopefully we can put at least some of the numbers in some sort of perspective.

In the dispute between Wheaton and its doctors, no one needs protecting. But I'm afraid it will be easy for the community to get distracted from the bigger picture, which is the quality of health care in Racine. It's an important debate - one our lives' may well depend on. Let's hope we don't get distracted by dollars and lose sight of common sense.

Whoops! JT reverses police spokesman's meaning ...

The JT's Paul Sloth did a good story today about the Police Department's nuisance vehicle on Sixth Street. But, as happens in news stories, a missing word reversed the meaning of a police official's statement.

Here's the graph:
(Sgt. Bernie) Kupper said he thinks the vehicle would deter legitimate customers from shopping at legitimate businesses.

"We're trying to provide a police presence, no different than putting a drone squad car on a side street to make people aware we are monitoring what is going on," Kupper said.
Can you spot  the missing word? It's "not" after "would" in the first sentence. Kupper confirmed the JT's typo and said it's the PD's position that the nuisance vehicle would not deter legitimate customers from legitimate business. 

Kupper said he spoke with the JT and they plan to issue a correction. 

p.s. Of course, this opens RacinePost up to all sorts of grammar/word cops, which is fine. That's the price of being in the writing business.

RAM appoints new curator of exhibitions

The Racine Art Museum has appointed Lena Vigna as its new Curator of Exhibitions. Vigna comes to the museum from the Miami University Art Museum in Oxford, Ohio, and will start here on March 1.

With previous roots in Wisconsin, Vigna served as the Curator of Exhibitions and Department Head at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin from 2001 to 2008. Her last major show at the Kohler, Laced with History in 2007, was a contemporary look at lace, lace making and the concept of lace as inspiration for artworks and installation sculptures.

Most recently, she has garnered recognition for her attention to contemporary art jewelry. In 2009, she co-authored an article in Metalsmith magazine on the new sense of ornamentation practiced by some of the artists working in contemporary art jewelry.

Vigna has her BFA and MA degrees in Art History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She worked at the University of Illinois' Krannert Art Museum and the Indianapolis Museum of Art prior to moving to Wisconsin in 2001. She moved to the Miami University Art Museum in 2008.

"Lena Vigna is viewed by many people in the field as an up and coming talent and we look forward to having her on our staff," said Bruce W. Pepich, RAM Executive Director and Curator of Collections. "She has exciting ideas and a strong interest in supporting artists and their development of new work."

The Racine Art Museum has nearly 5,000 contemporary crafts objects in its permanent collection. Vigna will head a department that organizes exhibitions three times a year at RAM and Wustum Museum of Fine Arts.

Analysis: It's time for the mayor to sweat the small stuff

Mayor John Dickert isn't interested in the small stuff. If asked, he'd probably put that a little differently. He'd say there are so many big issues and projects before the city that he doesn't have time for small-time local issues like CAR25 contracts.

It's a sympathetic argument (really), but it's also the source of his problems. Ignoring local issues, or at least not giving them his full attention, has allowed them to blossom into ready-made attacks for political opponents. If the mayor is going to turn things around, he needs to take the "small stuff" seriously.

A good example is the weeks-long fight over a $40,000 no-bid contract to revamp CAR25. The mayor did a couple of things well. He was right in recognizing CAR25, being the only Racine-centric TV station on the planet, could be a significant source of local information and entertainment. And, he was right in identifying Sandy Petrykowski, with her extensive background in national and international TV journalism, as the person to do it.

Where Dickert went wrong was how he approached the Cable Commission and City Council. Instead of laying out what Petrykowski would do if awarded the contract, he simply said she should get the deal and she'll work out the details later. It's a classic "cart-before-the-horse" situation.

If Dickert and Petrykowski made a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation to the Cable Commission and Finance Committee laying out what, exactly, they intended to do to improve CAR25, I have little doubt the contract would have passed easily. But they left the specifics a mystery, which left committee and commission members to fill in the blanks. The result: Petrykowski had to withdraw her name, Dickert racked up an unnecessary political loss and CAR25 doesn't have its $40,000 investment.

Then there's the collateral damage from this "small" issue. Dickert gaveled down Alderman Mike Shields at a City Council meeting, which turned into a major issue because it was recorded on video. Shields, president of the local NAACP, used the video to attack the mayor for silencing critics. (Nevermind that Shields was speaking out of turn, it's the gaveling everyone will remember.)

The mayor also opened the door for a review of all of the city's no-bid contracts. City ordinances now give an exemption for professional services contracts, and at least one alderman has requested a study of removing that exemption. In other words, the CAR25 contract isn't going away. Hopefully the mayor learns from this. Spending a couple of hours on the front side will save weeks, even months, of aggravation on the backside.

Another example is, after getting elected, Dickert put together a support team that, while talented in many areas, couldn't write a press release. That left the city struggling to communicate with the public and required the need to hire a public information officer. (The PIO will do more than write press releases, but Mark Eickhorst will fill a glaring need in the Mayor's office.) It seems like a small detail, but the mayor has struggled to communicate with the public since taking office. He should have considered that early after taking office.

The PIO issue has metastasized into questions about Dickert's efforts to hire friends and supporters into city jobs. Tom Friedel, the city administrator, is a family member; Greg Bach, his assistant, was a campaign manager; Eickhorst is a long-time friend; and Petrykowski was a friend. All together Dickert spent, or tried to spend, over $200,000 in city money on people close to him. Every person hired is qualified for their job, but it doesn't take much imagination to envision the criticism.

Lost in all of these small issues is Dickert is trying to do some good things. He's working to create an international freshwater research lab in Racine, he's working on a deal to attract Chinese investors to the city, and he seems to realize job creation is a top priority. But his inattention to detail, and the local political landscape, is burying his larger efforts and making him look out of touch.

Sure, in the scheme of things, a small contract for a cable-access TV station is a dumb local issue. But CAR25 means something to the people involved, and it's the mayor's job to honor their commitment to this one part of the city by being open and honest with them from the beginning. The same goes for all aspects of the city. The mayor can't ignore anything.

Fortunately for Dickert, he's got a year to turn things around. Talking with city political insiders, he could help himself by reaching out to the City Council and other officials for help. But that's a challenge because:

1.) Dickert really isn't interested in the small issues; he's working for something bigger. (Kinda like the power-hitter in baseball that will gladly strike out three times to hit one home run.)

2.) Dickert doesn't know who's planning to run against him next April. The race could easily see two or three City Council members and other local officials jumping in to contend for the four-year term. It's tough to reach out when there's so many potential opponents.

3.) He's dug a deep hole. There may not be that many people willing to help him out.

February 15, 2010

Consultant: Wheaton's profits undercut by insurance deal

Steve Clark, of TrendEdge Consulting in Racine, wrote in with a new perspective on Wheaton-Franciscan Health Care's business dealings:
One aspect of this discussion that has not been covered is the recent domination of the local Racine marketplace by United Healthcare.

Prior to the take-over by Wheaton, All Saints contracted independently with insurance carriers and because they were the only game in town, they were able to negotiate highly profitable contract terms; as one doctor mentioned, All Saints used to always be profitable and "in the black". When Wheaton acquired All Saints, that stopped the practice of independent contracting with insurance companies; being part of a larger corporate entity, All Saints now had to contract as a group along with other Wheaton facilities. This eliminated the leverage All Saints used to have due their status of being the only game in town. This opened the door for United Healthcare and other PPO networks which had strong contractual agreements with Wheaton Corporate.

So, if you are following me here, what happened is that All Saints now collects approximately 15-20% less from their most profitable customers because over the course of 2-3 years, the insurance coverage of all those customers migrated to UHC. Look around town, with the exception of Case and Ruud, almost every large business in the area moved to United Healthcare because they had significantly lower rates as a result of their strong contracts with Wheaton Corporate. Whereas SCJ and RUSD used to pay All Saints $.75 on the dollar, they are now paying Wheaton $.55 on every dollar billed.

Wheaton's management made an enormous mistake when they stopped letting All Saints contract independently in my opinion. Combine this with the problems resulting from their new billing system (that cost time/money and patients) along with a down economy where fewer people have insurance and those that do are not paying their deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, then throw in the increasingly high medicare/medicaid patient mix (that for the most part lose money), and you have an economic disaster on your hands. Not to mention, this all took place while major capital investment projects were going on.

So in the end, All Saints was hit by a perfect financial storm that was due to hit us like this eventually.

Wheaton acknowledges billing, ER problems; Working with doctors behind the scene

If you've been reading RacinePost the last few days, hopefully you've taken a few minutes to read through our coverage of a major rift between local doctors and Wheaton-Franciscan Health Care.

It's a remarkable story because of the near unanimous outcry in the comments against Wheaton. Dozens of readers have written in with story after story of billing problems, long waiting times in the ER and general dissatisfaction with care.

While most of the comments are anonymous, it's clear reading them that health care is a huge problem in Racine.

For its part, Wheaton acknowledged Monday it's working with doctors to resolve differences that surfaced last week

"Right now it's mostly behind the scenes work with physicians," said Anne Ballentine, Wheaton spokeswoman. "We're here to work collaboratively with them. We have a common purpose of serving our patients."

"We take any concern from our associates, patients and community very seriously," Ballentine said in response to the public outcry.

She said Wheaton was aware of problems with its billing system and is working to fix them. Jennifer Garbo Shawhan, also a Wheaton spokeswoman, said changes have already been made so ER patients see doctors faster.

"We've made some pretty significant improvements," Garbo Shawhan said.

Even with improvements, Wheaton is facing a PR disaster. They'll have to overcome stories like this one from a trusted reader:
I saw your article today about the near riot by the doctors at All Saints and I thought you might appreciate a story from the patient's point of view.

My (family member) visited in December. He is paralyzed, wasn't feeling great and thought he might have a urinary tract infection so we took him to Prompt Care.

(The family member) has no health insurance, so before we took him, we asked what the cost of Prompt Care would be - and were told $105 for the visit, and perhaps we could work out a payment plan. This sounded okay so we proceeded and on December 28, we went to Prompt Care when they opened.

We spent two hours waiting, and then we finally saw a doctor (Dr. Foley), he looked at my (family member) in his wheel chair and told us to go to the emergency room since they'd be better able to handle someone in a wheelchair. I said we had been there for hours so certainly it was no surprise that the patient is in a wheelchair, that there was no way we were going to head over to ER and start waiting and that my husband and I would lift him up onto the table ourselves, which we did.

I left the room so the doctor could examine him. The nurse took a urine sample from the urine bag, and the nurse and doctor looked at my (family member's) bedsore, and then the doctor prescribed Cipro and left. It took about 5-10 minutes total.

Within days, we started getting phone calls asking for payment - the amount? The first bill came for $930.00, with no explanation. I called a nurse I know who asked if they ran a CT Scan, as did several other medical professionals. Apparently there are reasonable and customary rates for procedures - so I requested a detailed breakdown. The Urinalysis was $33.00, the urine culture $59.00, and the rest is hundreds of dollars in procedures that only a medical professional would understand and we've never, ever gotten the test results. Only bills.

The most recent bill is laughable. Again, I'll send it to you if you'd like. The balance due at the top says "$930.00" but the total amount due on the bottom reads "$7,733.46." We're in the process of disputing this, but surely, we're not the only ones having such bizarre events at All Saints.

By the way, (our family member) traveled to Philadelphia after Racine and the doctors there said Cipro was the wrong medication ...

Mayor's pick withdraws, city posts part-time CAR25 job

Update 2: Here's a report from Monday night's meeting:
After approving the previous minutes, the Cable Commission opened up the meeting for comments from the public, which is the usual procedure. An Alderman and two citizens spoke giving comments that were at times pointedly against the idea of a consultant, and at other times more vague, but seemingly meant to oppose the consultant. Then Mayor Dickert dropped the bombshell of the evening saying that Sandy Petrykowski had withdrawn her name from consideration, and he was then opening up the whole process to the Cable Commission for their input.

This was like throwing the ball into the air and having it explode into a hundred pieces. The Mayor wants an RFP process with the stipulation that if anyone presently on the Cable Commission wants to apply, then they have to resign from the commission. There was a long, far-reaching, usually cordial, discussion that followed, even though a couple of exchanges between the Mayor and Alderman Coe and Alderman Shields might be called animated.
The Mayor scored the point that the $40,000.00 had always been for a personal services contract and that if the Cable Commission did not want a PSC then the money would have to be legally moved. Most of the commission members wanted additional part-time city employees to assist Scott Nelson, the only CAR 25 employee. There was some disagreement in the math about the cost of additional city personnel. Chase Hendrix, Chair of the Cable Commission, said that a consultant is an impossibility, because of the legal definition of contract workers and the requirements of the position.
The atmosphere was very electric considering that this committee labors mostly in total obscurity. Five aldermen, the Mayor, three founding members of CAR 25, a couple of media personalities, and a county board candidate all firing facts, opinions, and hyperbole around the room like a bad game of beach volleyball. After a non-stop hour of discussion some got a little sand in their face even when they had come just to sit in the bleachers. And as with every step of this process, the Cable Commission will convene in two weeks to sort out the twists and turns of the evening. It's going to take them that long to get the sand out of their teeth. They will then give their recommendation.

Update: The consultant withdrew her name for the $40,000 no-bid contract to overhaul CAR25.

Original post: We're a bit late on this, but here's the job posting for a part-time job working for CAR25, which was posted earlier this month. The Cable Commission met tonight to discuss the $40,000 contract Mayor John Dickert hopes will go to Sandy Petrykowski, a professional TV journalist who worked for ABC News, CNN, National Geographic and others. If you were at the meeting, we'd like to hear what went down.

Here's the CAR25's open job posting, which is entirely separate from the $40,000 consultant's contract:
The City of Racine will be accepting applications and resumes for the position of Cable Communications Coordinator with the Cable Access Racine channel (CAR25) until filled. This part-time position is approximately 10 to 15 hours per week and reports to the City of Racine's Information Systems Director. Responsibilities include bulletin board announcements, program playback editing and video content program production. Salary for the position is $16.30 per hour. A complete job description can be found by clicking here and an application can be found by clicking here. A resume without an application may not be considered. Interested applicants should send both a resume and a signed application to:

The City of Racine Attn: Human Resources Department
730 Washington Ave.
Racine, WI 53403
or FAX 262-636-9585
or e-mail jobs@cityofracine.org

SC Johnson CEO attending fundraiser for Mayor Dickert

Mayor John Dickert is holding a fundraiser with some heavy-hitters in the local business community.

SC Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson and Johnson Outdoors Chairman and Helen Johnson-Leipold and her husband, Craig Leipold, are scheduled to attend the fundraiser on Feb. 18 from 5-7 p.m. at the home of Porter and Maggie Venn.

According to an invitation to the event, others scheduled to attend include:

* Dottie Metz, owner of McDonald's Restaurants
* Jeff Neubauer, president/owner of Kranz Inc.
* Ed Lonergan, president/CEO of JohnsonDiversey
* Dick Hansen, CEO of Johnson Financial
* Jane Hutterly, Executive VP of worldwide corporate & environmental affairs for SC Johnson
* Ken Buser, President, Wheaton-Franciscan South Market
* James Dickert, Realtor
* Jim Eastman, Merchant's Moving and Storage
* Jerry Franke, president of WisPark
* Dave Perkins, president of Racine Federated
* Tom Burke, president and CEO of Modine
* Al Ruud, president of Ruud Lighting
* Chip Brewer, director of Worldwide Government Relations for SC Johnson

The invitation asks invitees to join the above guests to hear Dickert give an update "on the city's progress."

The event is being organized by Dickert's mayoral campaign. The mayor is up for re-election in April 2011.

Local doctors meeting with former All Saints executive about new medical group

Fifty local doctors are meeting today with Thad Johnson, former executive vice president of All Saints Healthcare, to discuss creating a new medical group, according to insiders.

Johnson left All Saints in 2004 after five years with the company. He then became president of The Janzy Group for three years and then president of New England Medical Care in 2007. Johnson now lives in the Phoenix area.

One tipster says Johnson was forced out of his job at All Saints in 2004 by Wheaton-Franciscan President and CEO John Oliverio.

Doctor: Wheaton-Franciscan will be 'unresponsive' to concerns

We've been blown away by the response to our stories last week about Wheaton-Franciscan and Racine's doctors. Dozens of comments have poured in offering incredible, pointed and, at times, frightening example of the deficiencies with Racine's primary health care provider.

Out of the many, here's one that stood out. Dr. Rodney Malinowski was fired by All Saints Healthcare in 1998 after speaking out about All Saints' restrictive covenant that prevented local doctors splitting off and starting their own clinics. While the JT doesn't have his commentary online, here are letters in response that give a flavor of what he wrote (here, too).

Dr. Malinowski weighed in on RacinePost about the current dispute and suggests Racine can do better than Wheaton-Franciscan. Here's his comment, in full:
I am a former Racine physician now working in a different Wisconsin community, but I still have ties to Racine. I read these blog comments with interest, because these are the very same issues which prompted the exodus of fifty-some physicians from Racine in 1996-1998, and led to my highly publicized termination from All Saints in 1998.

From my former experience, I will say that Wheaton's leadership will be unresponsive to community pressure to change. The corporate execs and public relations personnel will always put a WFHC "positive spin" on the issues, and paint the doctors as greedy. For those who hope Wheaton would release All Saints from its umbrella - forget it! Wheaton OWNS St. Mary's. The only thing which will change WFHC's behavior is competition from another hospital system which would impact their revenues. That's an issue the mayor and city government could facilitate. Otherwise, the Racine Common Council really cannot interfere in the operation of a private business.
As for the Journal Times' reporting, recognize that WFHC is one of their largest advertising clients. They are not going to bite the hand that feeds them. And the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters? They get their information, if any, on these events from their CEO, John Oliverio. What bias do you suppose he has? The one thing doctors and Racinians can do is to make certain the Chairman and Board of Directors of the hospital system are aware of these problems. They, too, get a biased presentation from Oliverio at board meetings, but at least some of these corporate citizens have an interest in Racine's future health care.
Do know that you still have many well trained and caring providers at WFHC, but they are fearful of retaliation if they speak out publicly. Fortunately, I don't have to fear them anymore. And a word of support for all the frustrated doctors and staff who are fighting for your principles and patients' best interests - take heart that situations are NOT like this all over the state. There are many hospital systems which have respectful, trusting, collaborative relationships with their medical staffs, employed or independent. I now work for one of them.
Rodney W. Malinowski, MD

Keep the comments flowing in. We're compiling a list of concerns for a bigger story this week about Wheaton-Franciscan's billing problems and the looming split between the health care provider and its doctors.

Super School Stars: Case German students

Case High School seniors Hanna Wilbershide, Dylan Runge and Lucas McCann were awarded Certificates of Merit by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) for their results on the 2010 National German Exam. Of the more than 300 students taking the Level 4/5/6 exam in Wisconsin, McCann and Wilbershide tied for 23rd place and Runge finished 75th. The National German Exam is a yearly test administered nationwide that measures a student's ability in German in the areas of reading and listening comprehension.

Super School Stars is a regular feature on RacinePost honoring local students, teachers and administrators in our schools. Have someone to nominate for a Super School Star Award? Contact us at: racinepost@gmail.com

February 14, 2010

Updated: Follow the money from Racine...

UPDATED: We found a more complete source tonight (thanks, Journal Sentinel for this great contribution database! Yours is so much better than the state's!), and went through it, looking for all the "Racine" addresses listed among donors to the three gubernatorial candidates. Here's what we found:

Scott Walker has received 250 contributions from Racine, totalling $44,344 (an average of $177). There were 11 worth $1,000 or more; the largest was $7,000 from Craig Leipold. As our story below notes, Walker aggregated thousands of contributions under $25, not listing them individually. Walker also received 17 contributions from Caledonia, worth a total of $1,730.

Tom Barrett received 11 contributions from Racine, totalling $6,615, an average of $601. The largest was $2,500 from Jeff Neubauer, president of Kranz, Inc. He also received one contribution from Mt. Pleasant: Kim Plache gave $50.

Mark Neumann received 35 contributions from Racine, totalling $1,158, an average donation of $33. The largest was $300 from Tashe Bozinovski, chief executive of Landmark Title.

Original post:

Wisconsin's gubernatorial candidates have filed their first financial reports -- the three major contenders have raised a total of $3.9 million so far -- and we had one question: Which Racinians are supporting which candidates; who's seeking a place in the smoke-filled room where all the important decisions will be made for the next four years?

The Journal Sentinel has a fascinating overview of the financial aspect of Wisconsin's gubernatorial race -- which is barely under way, except for that key aspect: fund-raising. But it doesn't go deep enough... so we drilled through the reports filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board to see where our neighbors' money is going.

So far, the three major candidates -- Republicans Scott Walker and Mark Neumann, and Democrat Tom Barrett -- have filed hundreds of pages of contribution listings. And the process has just begun; without the presence of incumbent Jim Doyle, the race is expected to cost upwards of $50 million.

Here's what we found about Racine's contributions so far:

Former congressman Mark Neumann -- he held what is now Paul Ryan's seat for four years in the 1990s -- reported the largest number of contributions from Racine -- 35 of them -- in an 84-page filing listing a total $1,322,461 in donations. Neumann, whose biggest contributor is himself with more than $1 million, listed just two Racine contributions over $100: Matt Matrise of Renewable Energy, gave $100, and Tashe Bozinovski of Landmark Title gave $300.

One-third of Neumann's contributions from here were $10 or under, including a few at $3 and $5. Racine's donations to his campaign averaged $33 and totalled $1,158.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker had small contributions as well -- but lumped 4,642 donations of $20 together as one, which did not disguise the fact that he had far more individual contributors than the other candidates. Walker reports close to $3 million raised, but the only report we could find online showed his most recent contributions: 100 pages of them, totalling $413,215, including $20,200 from PACs.

Of those, 20 came from Racine. The largest were: $3,000 from Lorraine Greenberg from Promotions Unlimited, $2,000 from Sandra Young, $2,500 from Frederick Young, $1,000 from Willard Walker, $500 each from Bonnie Obernberger of Creative Insurance Plan and Michael Derdzinski of Johnson Insurance. Two sizable contributions came from other candidates' campaign war chests: "Friends and Neighbors of Robin Vos" contributed $500. So did "Knuteson for Senate 2002" -- Atty. John Knuteson's failed 21st District campaign from eight years ago has doled out $7,696 to a variety of Republican candidates over the past 18 months.

The Rev. Jeffrey Thielen gave $200 in 2008, before the priest from St. Mary's Church in Burlington resigned amid allegations of financial improprieties.

In all, Walker's listed contributions from Racine totalled $11,480 and averaged $574.

UPDATE ON WALKER: The more up-t0-date Walker filing includes: $9,100 in three donations from Craig Leipold, chairman of the Minnesota Wild (and husband of Helen Johnson Leipold of SCJ); $5,000 from the "Friends and Neighbors of Robin Vos" given on Dec. 31, 2009, and $1,000 from Vos himself on the same date; $2,000 from Nancy Sobczak; $1,000 from David Eberle, president of Norco; and $1,000 from Ray Antonneau, CEO of David Security Insurance Agency; "Friends of William McReynolds" gave $200.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett filed 116 pages of contribution reports, listing $792,634 in donations, which included $153,408 from PACs. Barrett's largest contributors from here were: Jeff Neubauer of Kranz Inc., $2,500; Steven Botzau, an attorney with Habush, Habush and Rotier, $2,000; Robert Henzl, an attorney with Hostak, Henzl and Bichler; Jamie Wall, $1,000; Jerold Franke of Wispark, $400. Rep. Cory Mason ponied up $100.

Barrett's 12 Racine contributions from Racine totalled $7,215 and averaged $604.

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, who quit the gubernatorial race last Oct. 26, filed a 36-page contributions report, with donations totalling $107,461 for the year. She had pulled in just one Racine contribution: $2,000 from Bruce Bernberg on Oct. 5. (Timing is everything, Bruce!)