Staff Issues at Columbus Hospital

A staff shortage at the Columbus Community Hospital in Columbus, Wisconsin has created a hefty amount of scheduling issues.  This shortage has forced the small hospital cut back on the number of patients it can schedule for non-emergency concerns.

According to, the hospital employs over 300 employees in total.  In years past, this number was sufficient to handle Columbus’ five thousand people and the surrounding areas of Fall River, Randolph, and Cambria.  In recent years however, demand for the hospital’s services have started to exceed the number it can provide.

In 2015, construction was finished on a brand new surgical unit which allows the hospital to take on a higher capacity of patients.  With the new unit completed, a higher strain has been put on the other departments in the hospital.

Two of the hardest hit departments have been scheduling and the rehabilitation department, with scheduling feeling the brunt of the staff shortage.

As of now, the scheduling department contains five employees, managed by Janis Bachofen.  This department is tasked with creating appointments for all out-patient departments in the entire building.  A large portion of the job is meeting with the patients face-to-face or on the phone and trying to find a time that works for their next appointment.

With only two schedulers on the clock each day, busy days can be overwhelming for the staff.  “Monday mornings are usually the worst for us.  Everybody is trying to schedule an x-ray or rehab appointment for something they did over the weekend.  It gets a little hectic when there’s only two of us here to handle all of the calls,” said Amanda Bock, one of the employees in the scheduling office.

The rehabilitation department is having similar difficulties keeping up with the demand for services.   Angi Genco, head of the rehab department, is currently under immense stress to try and see every patient possible.

“With such a limited staff, it is nearly impossible to get to every patient into our department in a timely fashion,” said Genco.

Appointments often have to be scheduled a month or more in advance, due to there being no available openings any sooner.  This means patients will have to wait a long time to get the help they need.

This fact also makes the scheduling department’s job that much more difficult, forcing them to try and find the rare open slots for patients to take.

While the patients understand why they have to wait so long, most agree that it is not the most convenient situation.

“When I hurt my knee and went to urgent care a few months ago, I was told I’d have to wait a month just to see the rehab doctor.  I told them I needed to see somebody now, but of course no one was available,” said Austin DeYoung, a current rehab patient.

As of now, there are no plans to hire more staff in either department, but if the situation stays similar to what it is now, something will most likely have to be done.

Jefferson County Budget

“Jefferson County is in good shape financially,” said Dick Jones on the 2018 proposed county budget last Tuesday.  Jones, chair of the Finance Committee for Jefferson County, mentioned the fact that there is about a three month reserve that the county is currently enjoying.

During the public hearing, there were no comments from the public regarding the budget, so the meeting continued as planned.

Jones, along with County Board chairman Jim Schroeder and Finance Director Marc Devries, met with students before the budget’s public hearing to discuss finer points of the budget.

The total budget sits at $72.3 million, compared to the current tax levy of about $27.4 million.  With the library system and the health department factored in, this adds almost $2 million for a total county tax levy of $29.3 million.

Compared to the 2017 budget, the 2018 budget boasts a tax levy increase of $289,155, or 1.07 percent.  The tax levy has been steadily increasing since the 2012 budget, with a massive 5.62 percent increase in the 2015 budget.

To make up the difference in the budget between expenditures and the tax levy, the board is projecting a little over $40 million in revenues for the county.  Some of the biggest sources of revenue, and also the biggest source of expenses, include human services, the highway department, and the county sheriff.  They board is also projecting $2.8 million from other financing services.

The new mill rate for the county is set at 4.16, meaning a person who owns a $100,000 home will have to pay $4.16 in property taxes per $1,000 of property value.  The 2017 budget’s mill rate is set at 4.3, meaning the new mill rate is a 3.17 percent decrease.  This is the biggest decrease in the mill rate in the last ten years.

The debt service portion of the expenditures is listed at $1.1 million.  The main factor behind this is the new $16 million highway shop that was desperately needed, according to Schroeder.  He mentioned that the shop will be paid off in 20 years.

Both Schroeder and Jones touched on the fact that some counties in Wisconsin have found themselves in financial trouble due to their tendency to borrow money to fix roads.  “Roads should be funded out of the operating budget,” Schroeder said.  However, Jones added that sometimes “you need to borrow money to build.”

The total equalized value of taxable property is set at $6.6 billion for the 2018 budget.  This is an increase of $275.8 million from last year.

Overall, the equalized value is starting to return to the mark it was at in 2009, which was also $6.6 billion.  The recent increases are due in part to the housing market rebounding after the crash of 2008.

The County Clerk office will see a 44 percent increase in the tax levy in the new budget.  This is due to the fact that there will be a gubernatorial election, and the county needs new voting machines.  When the 2019 budget arrives, this number will go back down to more normal levels.

With $24.1 million listed in expenditures, human services commands the highest percentage of the budget.  Jones mentioned opiate addiction as a major obstacle in keeping costs down.  In Jefferson County, Jones estimated there are 200 people in treatment for opiate addiction.

The County Board plans to vote on final approval on the budget in the meeting on Nov. 14.

Common Council Meeting

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper, Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs Grace Crickett, and Police Chief Matt Kiederlen attended the Whitewater Common Council meeting on October 3 to discuss the issue of parking spaces and parking meters on and around the campus.

In August, parking meters were removed from Prince and Prairie Streets.  This forces students and faculty to purchase a parking pass from the university.

The passes themselves also saw changes, with permits divided between the lots north of Starin Road and the lots to the south.

Ald. Stephanie Goettl (District 5) is concerned about the price of these new passes, saying there has been an “unreasonable rise in cost.”  According to Kiederlen, the permit price has increased by $20.  Daily visitor parking passes have become more expensive, going from $3 to $5.

Kiederlen also mentioned that during the weekend, students can park anywhere on campus after 5 p.m. for free.

A major factor in why the city is upset about the parking meter removal is the fact that UW-Whitewater made these changes without city approval.  Kiederlen brought up a June 2012 agreement between the city and university which stated that the university has the right to manage their own parking.

Reading from the agreement, Kiederlen stated, “The city will not be responsible for parking enforcement for university spaces.”  He then added that the university is in the right to remove the meters.

The agreement also stated that the university can charge students to park on Prairie and Prince streets if the university paid the city $40,000 each year.

Crickett stated that “Parking is an integral part of our infrastructure.”  She also mentioned that parking needs to be more self-sustaining so that, “we can direct resources to student success, housing, and infrastructure.”

Citizens of Whitewater also criticized the university’s decision.  Comments were made about the increasing number of students parking farther off campus, taking up spots formerly used by citizens.

Pam Zarinnia, a citizen of Whitewater, is furious with these changes.  “I am embarrassed to be part of this city because of what the university has done with parking.”

Ald. James Allen (At-Large) is also concerned about taxpayers paying twice for parking.  Once with the taxes they are already paying, and secondly if they are forced to buy and parking pass for a space they should already be entitled to.

City Budget

City Manager Cameron Clapper gave his budget presentation at the meeting.  Clapper started out by stating that the budget has decreased by $30,000.  The total budget now stands at $9.1 million.

Taxes and governmental revenues will account for about 87 percent of the total revenue.  For expenditures, administration and safety take command the largest portion of the budget.

A few changes were added to the proposed budget.  Clapper talked about a debt service levy, along with changes to wages and health insurance.  The plan is for wages to increase by 1.5 percent to help offset the rising cost of health insurance.

With the slight decrease in the budget, Clapper is looking toward the future to prevent further budget issues.  To make up some of the losses, Ald. Jimmy Schulgit (District 2) proposed ticketing drivers more frequently for not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Landmark Ordinance

After a crowd of protestors gathered outside, the six council members seemed geared up for a battle on the first few topics of the night.  The first ordinance related to the landmark issue passed with no opposition.  Ald. Carol McCormick (District 1) was the only council member absent from the vote.

The proposal requires the council to review possible landmarks that are on city property before they can be approved.

The second proposal proved to be more difficult to pass.  This proposal would give the city of Whitewater the power to remove the status of a landmark.

Ald. Chris Grady (District 3) tried to defend the proposal by saying that people have been misinformed about the idea behind the proposal.  “The goal of this ordinance change was to treat city-owned landmarks the same as private landmarks.”

Council President Patrick Singer received one motion to approve it, but after asking multiple times for a second, declared the proposal dead on the floor.

Badger Hockey

Heart Attack Hero

MADISON, WI- Madison Capitols winger Mick Messner netted his second overtime game-winning goal in as many games on Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  Messner’s goal finished off a 4-3 victory against the league-leading Dubuque Fighting Saints.

The University of Wisconsin commit was fresh off of ending Friday’s game against the Cedar Rapids Roughriders with his first overtime goal of the weekend in a 2-1 victory.

Messner opened the scoring on Saturday with a breakaway goal, pushing his point streak to four games.  In that span, he has a total of four goals and one assist for a total of five points.

A few seconds later, Dubuque would tie the game with a slap shot from Austin Rueschhoff.  Rueschhoff took a pass at the top of the faceoff circle and wired the puck over the shoulder of Capitols goalie Dryden McKay.

Dubuque defenseman Patrick Kudla added another goal to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period.  Madison answered back and retook the lead with goals from Noah Weber and Verners Egle.

It was a back and forth affair until late in the third period when Fighting Saints winger Colin Theisen scored to tie the game at 3-3.

After five minutes of overtime, Messner took a pass from defenseman Cole Hults and fired a shot over Saints netminder Jaxon Castor to end the game.

“It was a total team effort…they played together the whole game, grinded it out, and got a nice win,” said Capitols assistant coach Jake Suter.

With three goals over the weekend, Messner is now sitting in first place on the team with a total of 10.  He is also fourth on the team with 19 points.

McKay made an impressive 30 saves in the contest.  His 15 wins is now a single-season record for the young franchise.

Saturday’s game was also Pucks N’ Paws night, with fans bringing in their dogs to watch the game.  Some fans were less excited about the win due to the added distractions.

“I didn’t get to see the goal because I was too busy trying to keep my beer away from Jack,” said Ryan Coyle about his dachshund.

After a rough start to the season, the Capitols have started the new year on a hot streak with wins in eight of their last 10 games.  Many of those wins came on the road, as the Capitols just wrapped up a month long road trip.

The Capitols return home on March 5 to face the Sioux City Musketeers.

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News Reading Habits

The news stories I am interested in on the national level mostly include American politics, especially during the last presidential election.  During the election, I mostly followed the battle for the Republican primary and all the different candidates that were fighting for the nomination.  I was also extremely interested in the Clinton-related scandals in relation to WikiLeaks.  It seemed like every day there were new emails being released.  For international news, I read news about the war against ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East.  Brexit was another big international topic that got a lot of news coverage.  I can’t really follow local news since my hometown is so tiny, but I can get some news from a newspaper that is published in a town about thirty minutes from me.

I usually don’t go searching for news by typing in a web address.  I do most of my news reading on my phone, so I have an app that I like to use.  The app gives me notifications on breaking news and then links to articles on that breaking news.  I would say my favorite news site is either Fox News or Reddit.  I like to get news from Reddit because they are extremely fast to post articles, and they will discuss things as they happen.  When I read news, I usually just read the text.  I don’t really like watching videos or listening to audio stories because I feel like it is a lot easier just to read it at my own pace.  I usually don’t post comments on news too often, I feel like most people in the comment section are just looking to start an argument.

In terms of Facebook and getting news, it seems like it is the best way to get local news stories.  A lot of my friends will post interesting articles about events that happen around my hometown.  It’s always fun to read the comments on those because sometimes I see people that I know.  There are also a lot of…interesting people that decide to speak their mind on the local news posts.  Those posts are usually pretty good for creating entertainment.

I mostly use Twitter for instant updates on sports.  I follow a lot of professional teams and their beat writers.  Following them gives a lot of good insight onto how the team works and you sometimes get a behind the scenes look at the team or league.  The beat writers always post links to their stories that they have published.

I think the only podcast I listen to is from the United States Hockey League.  I do play-by-play for the Madison Capitols, a team in the USHL, so the league’s podcast helps me to keep updated with everything going on in the league.

With news, I want to stick to strictly breaking news.  I hate reading the more opinionated stories because of all the bias that seems to leak into the articles.  I remember one article that turned out to be fake was during the Boston Bombing investigation.  An article on Reddit thought they found the bomber, but it turned out to be just an innocent guy with a backpack.  Everyone was all up in arms and trying to have the innocent guy arrested.

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