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Health care issue brings politicians to Hudson Hospital

Two visitors to Hudson Hospital over the past week may be an indication health care is about to become a hotter topic in Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday of last week, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, toured the facility. His visit was followed by a walk-through by Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, Monday morning.

Hudson Hospital President and CEO Marian Furlong served as tour guide for both of the members of Congress. Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce President Kim Heinemann and Hudson Mayor Jack Breault were also on hand for the half-hour visit by Feingold.

After showing Feingold the facility, Furlong said there are 22 bills related to health care currently pending in Congress. Senators and House members want to learn more about the issues and find out how things are going in their home states and districts, she indicated.

"We make it a priority to partner with our local and state leaders to ensure we are able to continue to meet the growing health care needs of our region," Furlong said in a statement issued Monday.

Feingold appeared genuinely impressed by what he saw during his tour of the Hudson Health Campus, which includes the hospital and Hudson Physicians Clinic.

The richly furnished and decorated patient rooms and common areas aren't like the ones he is accustomed to seeing, he indicated.

Furlong pumped Feingold with information about the five-year-old hospital and its programs throughout the tour. The two also engaged in conversation about federal programs that were unfamiliar to bystanders.

"You told me a lot in a half hour," Feingold told Furlong at the end of the tour.

He said that Matt Nikolay, his coordinator for western Wisconsin, suggested that he pay a visit to the hospital following a listening session in Knapp. He was on his way to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to catch a flight back to Washington, D.C.

Asked if his visit was related to his support for a national health care plan, Feingold replied: "Well, I think we have to figure out a way to make sure all Americans have health care. But you know what? That's not going to mean much unless there is somewhere for people to get their health care. ...What this (hospital) is about is true innovation in caring about patients. We don't want people to just have a card. We want them to be able to get quality health care. This is the kind of innovation I want to learn about."

Rep. Kind said following a listening session at the St. Croix County Government Center on Monday that he was curious about the investment in health information technology that Hudson Hospital is making.

He said the hospital also is part of a program to establish care-outcome standards that will be crucial to reforming the nation's health care system.

"We've got it backwards with our health care system. We're reimbursing based on the number of tests that were ordered rather than the outcomes that we're getting," Kind said. "And this hospital has been at the forefront of changing that. It's been exciting to see."

Hudson Hospital has earned national designation as a critical access hospital, which allows it to receive Medicare reimbursement on a cost basis, so that it doesn't lose money from participating in the program to improve patient outcomes.

Hudson Hospital also participates in programs to "rescue, defend, shelter and support" drug-endangered children, and to increase the chance of survival for people with heart-related emergencies.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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