WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding had the privilege of introducing Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake at a Wisconsin Health News
Newsmaker luncheon in Madison on March 15. As a founding sponsor of Wisconsin Health News
dating back to 2011, Borgerding welcomed the opportunity to address attendees, many of whom were WHA Partners, in person.
In his introductory remarks, Borgerding noted that COVID revealed much about Wisconsin’s health care infrastructure. “As much as we in this room might want to, it will be a mistake to let COVID disappear entirely into the rearview mirror, because it has revealed strengths that we must leverage, and weaknesses we cannot leave unaddressed or revert to status quo.” These include shortages in the state’s health care workforce; shortcomings in the long-term care system, how this impacts hospital care and access and the need for new thinking on post-care; the public health system’s responsibilities and capacity; and the red tape between patients and their providers that drive up health care costs. “The test is not only what we did to get through COVID, it’s what we do now do because of COVID,” Borgerding said. View Borgerding’s comments here
Borgerding thanked Secretary-designee Timberlake, along with Deputy Secretary Deb Standridge and the entire DHS team for their cooperation with Wisconsin’s hospitals and health systems throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fielding questions from Wisconsin Health News
Editor Tim Stumm, Timberlake stressed the need for continued surveillance, testing and vaccination as Wisconsin continues to manage COVID spread. Even in areas of the state with high levels of vaccination, booster shots are lagging behind initial vaccine doses, Timberlake noted. And while the “foreseeable future” is encouraging as it relates to continuous easing COVID restrictions, Timberlake cautioned that the public should be prepared to resume mitigation measures if they are needed, both at an individual level and as a population-based response to rising COVID cases.
Addressing the political divide that has only widened over the past two years, Timberlake encouraged audience members and the public in general to bring conversations down to a personal level. Government, she said, has an undeniable role to play in responding to a widespread health crisis, but so, too, do individuals.
Responding to an audience member question about the future of Wisconsin’s health care workforce, Timberlake observed that demographic trends are not working in Wisconsin’s favor. Timberlake said that health care stakeholders will need to work together to build systems that allow health care providers to “do more with the workforce we have.”