Tomah Health, Gundersen, and Mayo Clinic Health System keeping healthcare within reach in rural communities

Monroe, Trempealeau, and Winona counties experience rural health investment at right time
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TOMAH, Wis. (WKBT) – Healthcare needs extend beyond the steady rush of cars inside large cities.  Tomah’s new health care facility celebrated one year this past week.

The countryside is still home to many people who feel small towns are big enough. In the middle of one of the greatest changes to daily life, there’s a new appreciation for healthcare and one’s ability to reach it.

“It could not have come at a better time,” said Gerald Fushianes, a physician assistant at Tomah Health. “At our one-year-point, we’re functioning fully and our census is up as well as our ability to provide more services to the community,” Fushianes said.

This $66 million new hospital on Tomah’s south side was completed in 2019 next to Gundersen Health System’s Tomah location. The organization used to carry the name Tomah Memorial Hospital and was established back in 1952. This new state of the art facility is marking a new era in rural healthcare.

Large communities are a distant drive for many who live where sirens are rarely heard. People still need access to medical advice, and places like this make that possible, especially now.

“Think the pandemic is a very difficult time for a lot of people,” Fushianes said.

Tomah Health is not the only one. Gundersen Health System has recently opened new facilities in Tomah and Hillsboro, and Winona and Wabasha across the river.

Mayo Clinic Health System opened a new clinic in arcadia four years ago. Medical Director Dr. Bert Hodous says there are still ways to improve rural healthcare needs.

“I really hope that we continue to make strides,” Hodous said. “There’s a lot more to be done.”

Facilities and health care professionals can’t do their job in today’s technology-driven climate without a strong internet connection.

“So much in medicine now is being based on internet communication,” Hodous said.

Rural campuses, like Tomah, need young adults with a passion for healthcare who may not want to go to medical school. The PA and nurse practitioner professions are growing to meet the needs doctors can’t do on their own.

“We’ve evolved from, in the mid-’70s, a small profession to now over 100,000 PAs across the country that works in every discipline,” Fushianes said.

Fushianes said people from all backgrounds and degree fields can work outside the metropolitan grid, and bring big-city healthcare to small-town America.

“Our smaller communities, our hospitals, our rural communities are resilient and they’re capable of adapting,” Fushianes said.

Fushianes said he hopes more college students take an interest in healthcare careers.