Category: Our Communities

Meet two young philanthropists, Alexis (age 9) and Grace (age 7) Mescher, who are learning the ropes of fund-raising at an early age. Three years ago, they held their first bake sale, after deciding (with Mom’s help) that a drive thru breakfast sandwich fund-raiser might be a little unrealistic. 

Grace and Alexis wanted to raise money for something, and again, their Mom, Beth Mescher, helped them decide to use it for school supplies. The first year, they raised around $600 during a very successful sale that was planned for two days, but only lasted about two hours! Beth even started baking extra cookies when she saw that they were selling out so quickly!

The second year was even more successful with a one-day sale raising around $1,000. In their most recent bake sale last month, the total reached $2,600! The girls decided to split the profits between the Family Resource Center, where it would be used for school supplies, and the Guttenberg Care Center, for buying supplies needed for activities. Both organizations gladly accepted their donations! “The girls’ donation came at the perfect time! We needed additional funds, and because of gifts like theirs, we were able to serve 100 more kids this year. I’m so proud of these girls!” commented Family Resource Center Coordinator, Kari Harbaugh. 

The Mescher Girls’ bake sale takes place in late July or early August, depending on Mom’s work schedule. When asked how they feel about all the money being given away, and none kept for themselves, Grace replied, “Good,” and Alexis echoed, “Generous!” However, after they realized it was this easy to raise money, they asked about having one when they’re older to raise money for buying a car! After answering, “No!” Beth used the opportunity to explain the difference between a fundraiser to benefit the community, and one to benefit themselves, and that likely, their events had been so successful because they were benefiting the community. Thank you, Beth, Alexis and Grace for setting such a great example for all of us!

Fun Facts:

Most popular items:  apple crisp, Texas Roadhouse buns and butter, and popcorn

Your favorite items to make:  Alexis – cookie dough balls, and Grace – Rice Krispie treats

How many days to prepare?  Cookie dough balls can be done a week ahead and frozen, but everything else is prepared just days before the sale. 

How long will you keep doing it? “Hopefully every year,” both girls chimed in.

Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics was recently named one of the top 20 critical access hospitals (CAHs) for Best Practice—Patient Satisfaction in the country. 

The top 20 CAHs, including GMHC, scored best among CAHs as determined by the Chartis Center for Rural Health for Patient Satisfaction. The rankings were recently announced by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). An awards ceremony will be held during NRHA’s Critical Access Hospital Conference in September in Kansas City, MO. 

The top 20 CAHs have achieved success in overall performance based on a composite rating from eight indices of strength:  inpatient market share, outpatient market share, quality, outcomes, patient perspective, cost, charge and finance. This group was selected from the Chartis Center for Rural Health’s 2022 top 100 CAH list, which was released earlier this year. 

The top 20 CAH best practice recipients have achieved success in one of two key areas of performance:  

Quality index:  A rating of hospital performance based on the percentile rank across rural-relevant process of care measures.

Patient perspective index:  A rating of hospital performance based on the percentile rank across all 10 HCAHPS domains. 

“GMHC is proud of the efforts of the physicians and staff who have contributed to our hospital achieving this designation,” says Timothy Ahlers, CEO. “We are incredibly proud of our staff. We are blessed to have a team of professionals with high standards who care deeply about each and every patient and our entire community.”

“Our results as a top Best Practice Recipient in Patient Satisfaction means our community can count on us to deliver the services they need now and in the future,” said Ahlers.

About NRHA

NRHA is a nonprofit organization working to improve the health and well-being of rural Americans and provide leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education and research. NRHA’s membership is made up of diverse individuals and organizations from across the country, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health. 

About the Chartis Group

The Chartis Group provides comprehensive advisory services and analytics to the health care industry. With unparalleled depth of expertise in strategic planning, performance excellence, health analytics, informatics and technology, digital and emerging technologies, clinical quality and operations, and strategic communications, Chartis helps leading academic medical centers, integrated delivery networks, children’s hospitals, and health care service organizations achieve transformative results and build a healthier world. For more information, visit www.chartis.com.

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Growing up we had to be about dead before we went to the doctor.  Slap a bandage on it, put menthol vapor rub on your chest or put an ice bag on it.  A runny nose, sniffles or a cough was no reason to stay home.

Then we learned about COVID.  Now we stop and wonder.  Could it be a cold? Influenza? Strep throat? Mono? COVID?  Oh my.

Since COVID-19, the guidelines have changed.  If you are sick, stay home.  Get tested.  Wait until you are well, then return to the world.  Like any habit, it is difficult to make change.  But there are good reasons for the changes in our thought process.

Symptoms can be similar initially, but the outcomes can be very different.  They can all start with cough, body aches, fever, headache and sore throat.  But influenza and COVID may have a more serious end result.

Incubation time (time from exposure until symptoms start) is typically 1-4 days, unless it is COVID, then it can be 2-14 days.

With most of these illnesses, you can be contagious for 2 days prior to illness and for 3-5 days after illness starts.  With COVID, you may be contagious from 2 days prior to illness and up to 10 days after illness onset (up to 14-21 if with persistent symptoms or severe illness).

Symptoms last for 3-7 days, with the exception of COVID.  Symptoms of COVID, on average, last 1-6 weeks.  There can be long term symptoms that may last months after the acute illness is over.

When it comes to hospitalizations, 2% of those diagnosed with influenza will be hospitalized for 4-7 days, compared to 19% of the COVID diagnosis’ needing hospitalizations for 2-3 weeks.

Fatality rate of influenza is 0.1%, while the fatality rate of COVID-19 is nearly 3%.

Treatments for these illnesses vary.  There are antivirals for influenza, antibiotics for strep throat, monoclonal antibodies for COVID and, coming soon, the new oral medication recently developed to help decrease hospitalizations and deaths from COVID.  All depend on starting treatment sooner than later.  Treatment for influenza should be started within the first 72 hours.  Treatment for COVID-19 should be within the first 7 -10 days.  Treatment for influenza and COVID are to decrease severity of symptoms and won’t cure it but can significantly reduce need for hospitalizations and death as an outcome.

So, rethinking how we think about cold symptoms, the new recommendations are to stay home if you have any symptoms.   Be seen by your medical provider and get tested.  Getting tested allows for the best treatment options to be offered and improve outcomes.

Continue to be vigilant and continue to avoid getting sick.  Stay home if you are sick, continue with good hand washing, cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, wear a mask when you are in public places and update your vaccines.

Stay safe, be well and be kind to each other.

Robin Esmann, Director of Performance Excellence at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics, was recently selected as one of the Iowa Hospital Association’s (IHA) Hospital Heroes.

“It is truly an honor and privilege to announce our Director of Performance Excellence, Robin Esmann, was named a hospital hero. Robin’s knowledge and expertise coupled with her compassion and commitment to our community absolutely make her a hero to us,” said Tim Ahlers, CEO. 

“Over the past year, Robin has worn many leadership hats including Nursing, Incident Command, Employee Health, Infection Control, Safety, Quality, and she is an EMS member” reflected Lisa Manson, Director of Ambulatory Services. “Robin’s training in quality processes was apparent during the past year. She never settles for just good enough.”

Robin took responsibility for spearheading the COVID-19 vaccination process in the community. She worked closely with county and state officials to procure an appropriate supply of vaccine. Robin also secured a site for the vaccination clinic that was close to the hospital. After establishing a call-in hotline, Robin and several volunteers began contacting thousands of people to make appointments. In addition, Robin took a clinic on the road to reach local manufacturing firms interested in vaccinations for their employees. She was relentless in assuring that everyone who was eligible and desired to be vaccinated could be accommodated. 

“Jim and I had the pleasure of working alongside Robin at most of the vaccination clinics,” said Sue Osterhaus, vaccination clinic volunteer. “In the face of an incredibly stressful pandemic, Robin acted with strength and integrity every day as she managed the clinics and answered countless emails, calls, and questions regarding the vaccinations.”

Commented Robin, “I am honored to not only be nominated for this award by my colleagues but to also be chosen for this award by the Iowa Hospital Association.  There is no doubt that this past year has been the most challenging of my career. I never imagined having to live through a pandemic and certainly not one of this magnitude.  Fortunately, we have a great team at GMHC and that team is still working tirelessly day in and day out to get us through this pandemic. I’m very proud of the work we do and all that we accomplish; everyone at GMHC plays a very important role on the team.”

“Robin has been a nurse for more than 30 years and has been dedicated to our organization and our community,” commented Tim Ahlers. “She has worked in many settings throughout the hospital as a bedside nurse, a quality expert and a leader, excelling in every role. Robin’s knowledge of infectious disease and her courage to lead us through the pandemic is inspiring. Her commitment to our community is heroic. Robin is kind. She is a collaborator. She is courageous. And she is a true leader.”

Since 2007, IHA’s Hospital Heroes program has celebrated employees who have acted courageously in a moment’s crisis or who have selflessly served their hospitals and communities throughout their careers. Last year, IHA recognized all hospital employees for their heroic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to the derecho windstorm in August 2020. In 2021, IHA returned to recognizing 10 hospital employees who exemplify the passion and purpose of the community hospital mission every day.

Robin will be recognized at the IHA Virtual Annual Meeting in October.

On Thursday, June 24 at the annual Edgewood Pro Rodeo Days, Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics Imaging Department received a $5,000 check from the Edgewood-Colesburg (Ed-Co) Girls Volleyball Team. The team raised funds through silent auctions, t-shirt sales, and 50/50 raffles to benefit those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  These funds are then shared with local area hospitals to provide comfort at a time of need. 

The GMHC Imaging Department uses these funds to assemble beautiful gift bags to all of its newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. 

Items included are:

• $200 Casey’s Gift Card

• $150 Walmart Gift Card

• Note cards with stamps

• Aloe socks and gloves

• Lotion

• Coloring book and colored pencils

• Candy

• Bracelet

• Scarf

• Hot chocolate / coffee

• Water / coffee mug

• Blanket

• Chicken Soup for the Soul book

• Pink Tote Bag

On behalf of the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics Imaging Department, thank you to the Ed-Co Girls Volleyball Team and Coach Eileen Bergan for the hard work and dedication to their communities.

The Foundation of Cornerstone Communities (FCC) is pleased to announce that it applied and was approved for a $75,000 challenge grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque Small Town Dreams Initiative in its mission to build the local endowment to $450,000.  

The first phase of the campaign, the quiet phase, was to raise $150,000 using a two to one $2 local leaders: $1 challenge grant match. The first milestone was met with gifts and pledges secured over three years by the FCC Board, GMHC leadership and physicians, making the total raised, with the match, $225,000. To celebrate this milestone, the Foundation held a special event for its leadership donors in the courtyard of the Creativity Center on April 29. The celebration included recognition of the Foundation board of directors and comments from FCC Director Amy Speed, FCC Board Chair Dr. Robert Merrick, FCC Membership Chair MJ Smith, and the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque Director Nancy VanMilligen.    

A Strong Tomorrow Community Campaign

The Foundation of Cornerstone Communities is now launching the second community or public phase with a campaign called “A Strong Tomorrow” to raise an additional $225,000 to meet the challenge grant goal of $450,000. 

The Foundation was created to remedy two serious challenges facing the future of our local rural healthcare; the decline in the populations served by GMHC and recruitment and retention of health care providers. The Foundation supports initiatives and projects that directly impact the everyday health and vitality of our communities, keeping them strong and attractive to future generations. 

The staff of Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics share the common goal of protecting the future of local healthcare and are launching an internal giving campaign in efforts to raise $60,000 towards the community phase goal. GMHC staff have an opportunity to make a one-time donation or enroll in a three year giving campaign via payroll-deduct.

“We all love this community and this area that makes up the Cornerstone Communities,” said Tim Ahlers, GMHC CEO. “I can’t think of a better way to solidify our future than to support a Foundation that focuses on the health and vibrance of the very place we live and work.”

All businesses in the GMHC service area are invited to host a giving campaign for staff, whether it is a hosting jean’s day for a donation to the FCC, or a three-year campaign, all donations are appreciated to help reach the $225,000 community campaign goal. Please contact Amy Speed at amy.speed@guttenberghospital.org for more information.

If you value the future of local healthcare and believe in a healthy and vibrant today for all residents, we invite you to become a member of the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities with a pledge for an annual gift to the FCC Endowment, or one-time gift of any amount. 

Grant Making

When the Leadership Phase goal was met the FCC was awarded an additional $10,000 for grant making. To date, the FCC has funded $35,000 in local projects that share the mission of keeping our communities healthy and strong. Projects include Edgewood Viking Loop Trail, Osborne Walking Path, Guttenberg pickleball courts, playground equipment, promotional video and City of Guttenberg vitality initiatives.

The FCC is pleased to offer grant application opportunies four times per year; each January, April, July and October. Do you have a project in your community that needs funding, or maybe a great idea or initiative that will enhance the health of your community? The Foundation will partner with visionary leaders in all communities served by GMHC on initiatives that align with the FCC mission of creating a healthy and vibrant today. Apply online. 

Endowments are Forever

The FCC Endowment is held by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and is invested permanently. The earnings provide annual funding to sustain FCC grant making, securing the health and vitality of our communities for decades into the future.

Learn more from any board member, or by visiting the website: https://www.dbqfoundation.org/cornerstonecommunities or call 563-252-5516 or email amy.speed@guttenberghospital.org.

When you make an endowed gift to the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities, it will cost you far less thanks to the generous Endow Iowa 25% state tax credit. Gifts of $50 or more to endowed funds qualify for the Endow Iowa tax credit. Various gift types qualify for the tax credit, including charitable IRA rollovers, gifts of grain, gifts of stock and cash gifts.

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

The vaccine. It is here. It is safe. It is free. And it is available. It is so available, that there is no longer a wait list in Clayton County.

All anyone in the county needs to do is call (563) 245-2064 and they can be directed to a pharmacy or clinic and receive a vaccine. It is easy and it is free.

There can be side effects to the vaccine. Side effects like fatigue, body aches, chills and fevers.

They can last 12-48 hours. The biggest side effect is relief. Relief that we have another layer of protection. Another way to protect those we love and care for.

I have spent the last year going back and forth to work and home. I have avoided large group gatherings.

I have worn masks, washed my hands and socially distanced.

During a normal month, I may sign four death certificates. During the surge in Northeast Iowa, I was signing them daily, sometimes up to four a day.

I have watched patients and friends die from a disease that has no cure. There are treatments to help support the body and help in fighting the disease, but no proven cure. There have been many treatments, new and old, that have been tried and studied, around the world. We keep looking.

According to John Hopkins weekly report there have been 141.5 million cases and 3.0 million deaths worldwide. There have been 564,000 deaths in the United States.

Eighty percent of the time, the COVID virus has a mild effect. Twenty percent of the time, it is not mild. Roughly, ten percent of those with COVID will need hospitalizing and supportive care.

Two percent of the time the virus is deadly. We thought we could predict who would fall into that 20% category, but learned quickly, we could not. Basically, everyone is at risk.

A smoker is somewhere around 200-400 times more likely to develop a blood clot, than is someone that gets a COVID vaccine. Most of us have been getting vaccines our whole lives without issues.

As we have journeyed through the past year, it has come to my attention that if one has not been inside a medical institute during a surge, they may not have the same perspective as someone that has.

I share my experiences of the past year, not to be used as a scare tactic, but to give perspective.

This past year has changed me. It has changed us all.

The quickest way to take our life back, for the economy to recover, for businesses to return, for families and friends to gather is for everyone to get the vaccine. It is our best shot. It is America’s best shot.

Please, get yours NOW.

It is quite simple. If you love, care for and/or respect the people and family members you spend time with, you will get the vaccine to protect them and yourself.

The vaccine. It is here. It is safe. It is available. And it can save lives.

SHIIP Counselor Jim Solomon wrapped up his third year of volunteering to help 218 clients save a total of $127,448.

Even during a pandemic, the important work of volunteer Jim Solomon carried on. Jim is a Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) Volunteer Counselor, working in an office at the Family Resource Center, providing free-of-charge counseling and information to people with questions about Medicare, Medicare supplement insurance, long term care insurance, and other health insurance. 

In his SHIIP Counselor role, Jim logged 305 hours to assist the 218 clients. In addition, client appointments were safely spread out with a thorough cleaning in between each appointment, extending Jim’s volunteer hours. 

COVID-19 didn’t slow down Jim in his efforts to assist others. When asked why he does it, especially during a pandemic, Jim answered, “Volunteering keeps me busy during retirement. I thoroughly enjoy meeting people, educating them on what is available, researching the best possible options, and offering accurate information for them to make their best decision.”

One of Jim’s most notable accomplishments in 2020 was saving one client over $20,000 in out of pocket prescription expenses by researching both the drug plans and the pharmacy plans. “Even though a drug plan is identified as the best plan, pharmacy plans also change from year to year, so both need to be researched,” added Jim. “My training equips me to dig in deep to help people with their questions and problems, and to save them the most money possible.”

His annual SHIIP training consists of three modules, each two to three hours long, plus homework.

“Staying updated is a continual process, but I’m very thankful for this opportunity to help others in my retirement. Saving people money is very fulfilling, but visiting with and getting to know them is an added bonus,” said Jim.

Family Resource Center Coordinator, Kari Harbaugh added, “Jim genuinely cares for his SHIIP clients. He cares deeply about each person’s situation. He enjoys building relationships with them and their families, and they trust him. Challenges don’t slow Jim down. He does the research and work it takes to present the best options to his clients equipping them to make their best decisions.” 

Since his volunteer work as a SHIIP Counselor began in the fall of 2018, Jim has spent over 1,000 hours volunteering to help his clients save $292,698 over three years. 

Adds Kari, “Jim’s dedication shines. He is such a gift to our communty!”

In addition to people from Clayton County, Jim’s clients consisted of seasonal travelers and people in other counties who heard about how great Jim was to work with. This year he also worked with social workers to assist people who were in the hospital and care centers.

Although Open Enrollment is over, Jim’s work goes on throughout the year. If you have questions regarding Medicare, please call the Family Resource Center, 563-252-3215, for a one-on-one appointment with Jim. He will answer questions and provide impartial information to help you make well informed decisions.

Recovery Connect is an eight week recovery journey where participants will learn how unresolved trauma can negatively impact both over-all mental health and physical health. Participants will be equipped with tools and connections to guide healing from past traumas. Registration is free, and child-care is provided.

The first session begins Wednesday, April 7 and meets 8 consecutive Wednesdays. Click here for details.

Benefits of Participation:

  • Live with Less Anxiety
  • Learn Coping Skills
  • Improve Self Confidence
  • Understand the Importance of Social Connections 
  • Learn Effective Communication Skills
  • Understand Healthy Relationships vs Unhealthy Relationships
  • Identify Types of Abuse
  • Regain Emotional Balance
  • Increase Assertiveness
  • Set Boundaries
  • Learn Healthy Stress Relief Options
  • Understanding Nutrition, Gut and Brain Health

Space is limited. To register for Recovery Connect, call 563-252-3215 or Email: family.resource.center@guttenberghospital.org 

The program will be led by Kate DeWall, LISW with self care taught by Sadie Hefel. Recovery Connect is brought to the community through the Family Resource Center and partnerships with Family’s Helping Hand and SART – Sexual Assault Response Team Clayton Co.

Clayton County COVID-19 VaccinUpdate

On Thursday, 3/4/2021, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced that those individuals under age 65 with certain underlying health conditions would be vaccine eligible beginning Monday, 3/8. Qualifying medical conditions for those under 65 include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Full listing and information on qualifying medical conditions can be found at the CDC website:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.

Clayton County vaccine providers will continue to prioritize those age 65 and older and those who qualify under Phase 1B tier groups as set forth by the Iowa Department of Public Health. We ask for anyone who is newly eligible due to underlying medical conditions and under age 65 to have patience as we complete these two previously eligible groups. We anticipate increased vaccine doses in the coming weeks and will work with our local partners to make them available as quickly as possible.

As we work through this transition, individuals age 65 or older can continue to call one of the below numbers to place their name on a vaccine list to be contacted as doses are available:

• Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics: Individuals may call (563) 252-5571 and leave a message with their contact information.
• MercyOne Elkader Medical Center: Individuals may call (563) 245-7089 and leave a message with their contact information.
• Regional Family Health-Strawberry Point:  Individuals may call (563) 927-7575 or visit regmedctr.org/covidvaccinewaitlist

Individuals age 64 and under with qualifying underlying conditions can visit one of the below pharmacy sites to place their name on a vaccine wait list to be contacted as doses become available:

• Hartig Drug Guttenberg:  www.hartigdrug.com
• Guttenberg Pharmacy:  https://www.nightingaledrug.com/
• Clayton Drug: (563) 933-4762 or (563) 245-2530

Again, we appreciate your patience as we work through this transition period. Updates on vaccine availability and county wait list options will be provided as it becomes available.

For additional information on COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the CDC website:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html

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