HHS Secretary Tours Bellin Hospital

Azar meets with leaders, physicians to discuss returning to care amid COVID-19

GREEN BAY — U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar toured Bellin Hospital today, meeting with leadership, physicians and the news media to discuss the health system’s response to COVID-19, as well as its efforts to emphasize the safety and importance of all types of healthcare as the pandemic continues.

“At Bellin Health, we call it coexisting with COVID — finding ways to safely ensure that we are meeting all of our patients’ healthcare needs,” said Bellin Health President and CEO Chris Woleske. “Secretary Azar calls it ‘Health vs. Health,’ this idea that we shouldn’t sacrifice other aspects of healthcare due to the pandemic. No matter what phrasing you use, the message is the same — healthcare is important, and it’s safe. We’re so pleased the Secretary could join us today to help us in sharing this critical message.”

Secretary Azar’s tour took him to the hospital’s Emergency Department, where physicians shared information and insights from their work on the front lines of COVID-19, as well as how they have continued to care for all patients while keeping patients and care team members safe. He also visited the hospital’s eighth floor, the entirety of which was transformed into a COVID-19 treatment and isolation unit during the pandemic’s early days. It has now returned to serving as the hospital’s Orthopedics and surgery short stay patients, while those with COVID are cared for and isolated elsewhere within the facility.

“Today’s visit was an important opportunity to learn about the range of efforts we’re seeing in Wisconsin to protect Americans’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Azar said. “Thanks to the efforts of frontline healthcare workers like I’ve met here at Bellin Health, the Oneida Nation and elsewhere around Green Bay; thanks to the hard work of state and local leaders; and thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we’re making progress against this virus every day.”

During his visit, Secretary Azar also held a roundtable discussion with hospital leadership and physicians, further delving into the hospital and health system’s COVID response and its efforts to return patients safely to all types of care. He concluded with a press briefing in the hospital lobby. “Here in Green Bay, the number of colonoscopies and mammograms dropped by over 90 percent from March to April, joint replacements declined by over 90 percent, and primary care visits fell by 75 percent. We’ve begun to see those numbers recover, and I’m very encouraged by the efforts I heard about here at Bellin.”

As part of its “coexist with COVID” approach, Bellin Health has taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of all patients throughout its facilities. All who enter its buildings have their temperatures taken and answer COVID screening questions, and all patients, visitors and staff are required to wear a mask. Patients with respiratory symptoms are separated from those without so they do not share the same space, and enhanced cleaning protocols further elevate the health system’s safety efforts.