They won't be ski jumping, bobsledding or snowboarding, but healthcare providers will play many roles at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City next month.
Ben Wedro, an emergency-room physician at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wis., will be taking part in his fourth consecutive Olympics. His chosen sport: "The ultimate hanger-on."
The 47-year-old Alberta native, whose winter athletic pursuits are limited to such non-Olympian activities as pickup hockey, will be working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. television network as a researcher, commentator, "cable puller" and whatever else his temporary employer from the Great White North wants him to do during the 17-day games, which begin Feb. 8.
In the early 1990s, after bumping into a CBS-TV executive while hiking in the mountains outside Steamboat Springs, Colo., Wedro, who is fluent in French, was invited to serve as a physician-interpreter at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France. He helped set up clinics for the network's staff of about 2,500 at the next two Olympics-the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway, and the 1998 event in Nagano, Japan.
Wedro caught the attention of CBC executives when he was called on by the network's correspondents in Nagano to speak on-camera about various illnesses and injuries.
"I don't see myself going for the glory of being in front of the camera," says Wedro, who has worked at 264-bed Gundersen for the past 16 years. "My job is to teach people about medicine in regular English."
Meanwhile, local provider heavyweight Intermountain Health Care will be everywhere during the games. When it was selected in 1998 by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to provide medical services and treatment for the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics, which will be held March 7-16, Intermountain sought volunteers for 1,317 positions. More than 13,000 volunteered. Those who won the coveted posts include 171 physicians, 230 registered nurses, 136 physical therapists and athletic trainers, and 152 emergency medical technicians.
The volunteers are being kept busy. They will work at least seven shifts of eight to 12 hours during the two events. More than 350 employees from 20-hospital Intermountain will volunteer at 35 temporary clinics for athletes and spectators.
Intermountain spokesman Daron Cowley says the system is donating the care as a community service. "This will cost us, in in-kind and other services, about $9 million. But we've been planning this for four years."
Swallow hard and then say "cheese," Premier hospitals. The buying alliance has signed a two-year contract for the new and highly celebrated camera pill manufactured by the Israeli firm Given Imaging.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2001, the M2A Capsule Endoscope-a fully ingestible and digestible pill-gives doctors a picture-perfect glimpse of the small intestine, allowing them to diagnose such disorders as obscure bleeding, Crohn's disease, celiac disease and intestinal tumors. The Premier agreement marks the first such purchasing contract for the Israel-based company.
The new agreement, which took effect Jan. 1, offers enhanced pricing, services and education to Premier's 1,600 hospital members and is part of the GPO's Technology Breakthroughs Program, which monitors potential breakthrough technologies as they enter the marketplace.
The pill includes three elements, a vitamin-sized capsule containing a miniature video camera and transmitter; a wireless recorder worn on a belt that receives images from the capsule; and software that processes the data to produce video images of the small intestine. At two frames per second, the system develops and delivers the photos faster than the local one-hour photo store.
The camera, of course, is disposable.
Giving starts at home.
When it comes to fund raising, providers' foundations usually rely on large, established donors. At St. Barnabas Health System in Gibsonia, Pa., philanthropy is an all-staff production.
Since 1986, the 500-plus workers at the 101-year-old faith-based organization 18 miles north of Pittsburgh have contributed part of their paychecks to support patient care. In 2001, 93% of St. Barnabas' employees, or "special people," pledged more than $16,000 in personal funds as part of the system's annual Special People Fund campaign. Employees had the option of making a one-time contribution to the fund or electing to have their donation deducted over the course of the year from their biweekly paychecks.
Employees also were given the choice of which St. Barnabas facility they would like their contribution to benefit. The nondenominational system, which operates three retirement communities, two nursing homes, an assisted-living center and a multispecialty outpatient medical center, provided $4.8 million in charity care in 2000.
"Our residents don't always have a lot to look forward to, some being elderly and some not aware," says Sara Kollek, a registered nurse and the night supervisor at St. Barnabas' 91-bed Valencia Woods Nursing Center. "I feel they can benefit from the Special People Fund because we can do extra things for them. It just helps."
This year's employee contributions will help pay for renovations to a wing at St. Barnabas Nursing Home as well as other services such as new furniture, electric beds and patient lifts that contribute to patients' well-being and day-to-day care.
"We like to be able to go back to the major donors, foundations and others and say to them, `We believe in investing in ourselves,' because that's really the message we know they want to hear," says William Day, president and CEO of St. Barnabas who has been with the system for 34 years.