Ascension Mercy in Oshkosh coping with COVID-19

Billy Piotrowski, Reporter

Courtesy of an Ascension Press Release — Ascension also follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s protocol for universal masking, meaning staff are asked to wear face coverings while on the clock at the hospital.

As hospitals around the country help fight COVID-19, the Ascension Mercy Campus in Oshkosh has had to adjust in order to continue to provide care for those in need.

Jennifer Derks, vice president of hospital operations at the Ascension Mercy Campus in Oshkosh, Ascension: Calumet in Chilton and Ascension: St. Elizabeth in Appleton, said they now screen staff members before they even walk through the hospital’s doors.

“All Ascension associates are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they come to work,” Derks said. “It’s something that we do diligently as a part of our jobs; it’s what we do to make sure that we can safely care for patients in our community.”

Ascension also follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s protocol for universal masking, which means staff are asked to wear face coverings while on the clock at the hospital.

Derks also extends this request to incoming patients and visitors. Visiting hours are still under review, but Derks encourages family members and loved ones to schedule virtual visits with friends and family in the hospital.

“Some of our sites have provided devices to help people stay connected to their family members,” Derks said. “It’s really important during this time to stay connected, and if folks can’t be on campus to be with their loved ones, then we’re making sure that virtually they can be with their loved ones while they’re here.”

Ascension Wisconsin had moved to a temporary “virtual visitation” policy on March 21 for both inpatient and outpatient settings. Derks said that physical visitors are still welcome for certain patients, but there are restrictions as to how many visitors are allowed.

“Women who are in labor and delivery and postpartum are allowed one visitor — it must be the same visitor throughout labor and delivery and postpartum,” Derks said. “One legal guardian is permitted in the neonatal intensive care unit; pediatrics are allowed one visitor.”

“Furloughed” is a word that has been on the tongue of many people recently. People in all fields are being furloughed or let go due to reasons surrounding COVID-19. Derks said that, due to the size of a group like Ascension, staff at the Mercy Campus and other Ascension facilities have not had to worry about that.

“One of the benefits of being part of a larger organization such as Ascension, is at the national level, Ascension is committed to protecting the pay of associates during this time,” Derks said. “That includes a commitment to no lay-offs and a variety of actual paid protection programs. And they will continue to do that for as long as possible.”

Having the extra staff has been a large benefit to hospitals around the state and country. Derks said she has been impressed with how many staff members are ready and willing to help wherever they are needed.

“We definitely have had the ability to do that with staff [move between facilities], and we’ve had a lot of folks come forward to say ‘hey, I’d like to be able to help someplace else. How can I do that, and how can you help me make that happen?’” Derks said. “And we’ve been able to do that from a national and state level.”

Many hospitals have also witnessed shortages of Personal Protective Equipment. These shortages range from nitrile gloves and gowns to masks and other items. Derks said that this has not been a big issue at any Ascension facilities, but donations are still welcome.

“We’ve implemented aggressive conservation methods to ensure we’re prepared for an extended increase in patient volumes and continued supply chain pressure over the coming months due to COVID-19,” Derks said. “As we get any new products in, all of our new products are reviewed by our implementation team and infection prevention team in a collaborative effort to make sure all of our PPE products are approved before they are circulated for use.”

Derks says organizations or individuals who want to make a donation should email for more details.

She added that the Mercy Campus also offers a drive-thru COVID-19 testing station, but it is only available to those who have a doctor’s order stating they have symptoms that need testing.

“It is not a testing center where anybody would drive through to get tested; you really need to have doctor’s orders to do that,” Derks said. “So that’s why we’re telling folks really to make sure they’re best first connection point is reaching out to their primary care practitioner.”

There is an Ascension hotline available for Wisconsinites who may have questions or are concerned that they have COVID-19 symptoms. That number is 1-833-981-0711. Frequently Asked Questions and a self-assessment tool for those with specific health concerns can also be found at