Kate Beer, President/CEO

Hancock -November 24, 2009

Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice has been granted continued and unqualified accreditation for quality home care and hospice programs by the Washington, D.C. based Community Health Accreditation Program, Inc., (CHAP), according to Gale O. Surrency, Director of Professional Services of CHAP. The organization was granted CHAP’s highest accreditation for three more years. CHAP has set the highest standards for community and home based health services for 30 years. “The CHAP seal represents a level of excellence that is recognized across the healthcare industry”, according to Surrency. Due to this recognition of quality service, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes CHAP accredited organizations as automatically certified to be a provider for the Medicare program.

Surrency said, “The accreditation that Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice has achieved is important to the healthcare community, and the public at large. It demonstrates that an organization has achieved high levels of quality in operations and services”.

Kate Beer, CEO of Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice, notes that CHAP accredited organizations must complete a rigorous independent evaluation process. “This assures that accredited programs have gone well beyond the minimum quality levels. In addition, achieving voluntary accreditation is a way of being accountable to the public and clients who place their trust in us”, said Beer.

To earn CHAP accreditation Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice completed an intensive process of self-study, together with unannounced site visits and client interviews by CHAP’s consultants.

“This achievement is a credit to the professionalism and hard work of our board and staff,” said Beer.

Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice is both the area’s newest and oldest home health agency. Superior Home Health and Hospice served the residents of the Western U.P. for more than 70 years as a division of Western U.P. Health Department. In October, the unit completed the transition to Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice, a private, independent home care company formed in partnership between the Aspirus health system and Western U.P. Health Department.

Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice provides a full range of skilled home health, hospice, and rehabilitation services to residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties. Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice has offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer.
WUPHD Home Care
Joins with Aspirus
Hancock - November 19, 2009

Western U.P. Health Department and Aspirus Open New Home Care

Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice opened it’s doors to business on October 17. For Guy St. Germain, the change at the home care part of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is a continuation of services historically offered, and more. St. Germain, executive officer and health officer for the health department, said although the partnership between the health department’s Superior Home Health and Hospice and the Wisconsin-based Aspirus health system was announced in July, it didn’t actually begin operations until last month. “The finishing touches on all the business aspects were completed October 17,” he said.

St. Germain said the new entity created by the merger, Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice, as joint venture of a private corporation and a government agency, is the only one of its kind in the state. “It is probably the most unique home care company in Michigan.” he said. “Aspirus Superior is the only model of a health department venturing with a hospital system to create a whole new company. You don’t routinely see public-private partnerships in health care.”

St. Germain said the health department is the majority owner of the new non-profit company, and Aspirus VNA Home Health, and Keweenaw Health Foundation, an arm of Aspirus Keweenaw, are the other owners. “It’s a perfect fit for these two entities to work together, because we both have a mission to serve the region,” he said. “The health department has a 70 year history of providing the area with home health services, and this partnership will build on that history, and continue our mission to serve everyone in the five counties of Baraga, Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton and Keweenaw.”

St. Germain said Superior Home Care and Hospice patients were told of the change to the new home care company, and they all chose to stay as patients. “(The change) was invisible to all our patients,” he said. There were no layoffs of employees of the former company, St. Germain said, and they all chose to stay on with Aspirus Superior, also.

St. Germain said because of the merger, there is an intention to eventually move the company into Wisconsin and other parts of Michigan. “With the new company, we have the ability to expand, both in geographic terms and in the depth and breadth of our services,” he said.

Western U.P. Health Department provides public health services to residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties. In addition, the new Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice company, provides skilled home nursing and hospice services in the five counties. Western U.P Health Department and Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice have offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer.



Indoor Walking Program
Begins November 10th

HANCOCK, MI – November 6, 2009

The Western U. P. Health Department announces that a twice-weekly free indoor walking program will begin Tuesday, November 10, 2009, from 7:45 to 9:30 a.m., in Finlandia’s Paavo Nurmi Center gymnasium, Hancock.

Adults of all ages are welcome and no registration is necessary. Soft-soled walking shoes are required.

For those who need a ride to the Paavo Nurmi Center, the City of Hancock Transit Bus will provide a round trip at a 50% discount.

The free walking program is also sponsored by Finlandia University, Aspirus Home Health and Hospice, and the City of Hancock.

For additional information, contact Rachelle Bachran at the Western U. P. Health Department at 906-482-7382, ext.189.


First H1N1 Flu Case
Confirmed in Houghton County

Hancock - July 2, 12009

Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department reports the first confirmed case of H1N1 (Swine) flu in Houghton County. At this time, the other four counties in the district (Baraga, Keweenaw, Ontonagon and Gogebic) have no confirmed cases. "The person affected is an adolescent who is doing well and recovering at home," says Dr. Frankovich, the health department's medical director. The H1N1 flu continues to spread nationally more than 27,000 confirmed cases reported in the U.S. as of June 26. In Michigan, more than 600 cases have been confirmed and there are hundreds of additional cases of flu-like illness suspected to be H1N1. To date, there have been few cases reported in the Upper Peninsula.

The H1N1 flu continues to be generally mild with fever, cough, sore throat and nasal congestion. But just as with seasonal flu, a smaller number of people have had more severe illness. People traditionally considered at higher risk of more serious influenza illness include children under 5 years, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and anyone with one of a number of chronic diseases including respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes or decreased immune function. Your doctor will know if you have an important risk factor.

"Interestingly, there have been few cases of H1N1 virus infection in older adults to date and it appears that at least some individuals in their 60's and older, have some level of immunity to this new virus. This is likely due to past exposure to a similar strain," according to Frankovich.

Good hygiene techniques are still the key in preventing illness with this flu. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available. Washing your hands before eating or when you first get home after being out and about, is especially important. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are freshly washed. If you are ill, stay at home and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, since flu viruses are typically best spread through the droplets sprayed with coughing and sneezing. Individuals with H1N1 flu need to stay at home for 7 days or until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. This will help to limit the spread of the virus in the community.

If you have flu-like symptoms and are concerned, call your healthcare provider for advice. There are medications that help shorten the flu and decrease its severity. They may also help to prevent you from developing the flu if you have been in close contact with someone who has H1N1. Not everyone will need to be treated or receive preventive medicine. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about what is recommended in your particular case.

It is likely that we will see additional cases over the summer months with an increase in illness during the fall/winter flu season. Whatever the season, good prevention efforts are the key to staying healthy.


Superior and Aspirus
Partner for Home Health and Hospice Services

DATE: June 30, 2009

REGARDING: Superior and Aspirus Partner for Home Health and Hospice Services

FOR: Immediate Release

For More Information
Contact: Guy St. Germain, Health Officer
Phone: 482-7382
Fax: 482-9410

Superior and Aspirus partner for home health and hospice services
Innovative affiliation will strengthen the health care landscape

HANCOCK, MI. – The landscape for home health and hospice care is changing and improving, according to information presented today by local and regional health leaders.

Representatives from Superior Home Health and Hospice, currently a division of Western U.P. Health Department, and Aspirus health system held a press conference this afternoon at the offices of Western U.P. Health Department in Hancock, where they described an innovative business deal that will ensure the viability of vital health care for years to come:

On September 1, 2009, Superior Home Health and Hospice will become Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice.

Through an innovative collaboration between government and private entities, Superior will transition from operating as a service of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department to standing alone as an independent company. Superior Home Health employs 60 workers and serves 200 clients in five counties, from offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer. Aspirus is an integrated health system based in Wausau, Wisconsin.

“This is an exciting day for everyone involved in this initiative,” said Guy St. Germain, Health Officer/Administrator for Western U.P. Health Department. “For 70 years, this health department has provided vital care to people through our Superior Home Health division. We believe this partnership will ensure that we continue to provide outstanding local care for many years.”

Superior Home Health and Hospice will provide uninterrupted care to its patients throughout the transition, and Superior plans to retain all of its employees.

- more -

“Aspirus is dedicated to providing a full range of health care services in the Western Upper Peninsula,” said Jean Burgener, Vice President of Aspirus Extended Services. “Joining with Superior to offer excellent, compassionate home health and hospice is a wonderful opportunity.”

Although Aspirus is a relatively new name in Upper Michigan, it has established a strong presence through Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital in Ontonagon, Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium, several local physician clinics and, most recently, Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice in Calumet.

Chuck Nelson, CEO of Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital, confirmed the significance of the new affiliation. “This innovative alignment gives Aspirus a five county presence from the Keweenaw to Wisconsin, and strengthens the ability of Aspirus Superior to serve the home health needs of the Western Upper Peninsula,” Nelson said.

Aspirus Superior Home Health and Hospice will offer a rare combination of experience and success. Superior has developed a strong workforce and broad range of services. Aspirus VNA Home Health was founded in 1947, and was named among the 2008 HomeCare Elite. Both organizations’ dedication to excellence and compassion makes the partnership a good fit.

“Together, we will be able to elevate the quality and efficiency of care provided at all locations,” St. Germain said. “There is so much talent, experience and dedication involved in this partnership, I believe our patients and staff will benefit tremendously.”

About Superior Home Health and Hospice
Superior Home Health and Hospice is a division of Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, the public health agency for Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties. Home care has been a part of the health department since 1936, making Superior Home Health and Hospice the longest running home health provider in the region. The agency is fully accredited and provides Medicare-certified skilled nursing and hospice care, a full range of therapy services, medical social services, specialized medical services such as wound care and infusion therapy, hospice services, and a variety of community outreach activities including blood pressure screening, foot care clinics and bereavement programs.

About Aspirus
Aspirus is a community-guided health system providing leading heart, cancer, women’s, and spine and neurological care. With about 4,100 employees, Aspirus serves north central Wisconsin and the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan through Aspirus Wausau Hospital; 40 primary and specialty clinics; an affiliated hospital and physician network; regional home health and hospice services, and long term/nursing care. Aspirus Wausau Hospital recently was named to the HealthGrades’ “America’s 50 Best Hospitals” list for 2009. It was the only hospital in Wisconsin, Minnesota or Iowa to earn the recognition.

Superior Home Health and Hospice – Guy St. Germain, (906) 482-7382 office, (906) 370-1516 cell
Aspirus – Andy Napgezek, (715) 847-2194 office, (715) 571-2690 cell


Health Department Urges
Caution Around Wild Animals

HANCOCK - June 16, 2009

 As Western Upper Peninsula residents are enjoying outdoor summertime activities, the Western UP District Health Department reminds people to use caution around wild and unfamiliar domestic animals to protect themselves against rabies.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People get rabies from the bite of an animal with rabies. Wild mammals, such as bats, raccoons, skunks, fox, or coyotes can have rabies and transmit it to people. Rabies is invariably fatal once symptoms appear.




Health Department Monitors
Water Quality at Local Beaches

HANCOCK - May 22, 2009

REGARDING: Bathing Beach Monitoring Program

For many people Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the summer season and it brings to mind fun visits to our local public swimming beaches. The Western Upper Peninsula has beaches of exceptional beauty and generally excellent water quality. To be sure our beaches are safe for swimming the Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department has begun its annual bathing beach inspection program.

 Is the water safe for swimming?
Most of the time, the water at beaches is safe for swimming. But the water can be polluted by different things. Trash (like picnic plates, plastic bags and bottles, and cigarette butts) is easy to see. Occasionally harmful bacteria and other things we can't see may also be in the water. Some of these things can make you sick.
Swimming or playing in unsafe water could result in illness symptoms like sore throats or diarrhea. It could also lead to much more serious problems. To be sure if your beach is safe for swimming, there are several things you can do:
 Check for signs or posted warnings near or on the beach
 Visit the health department's website to view beach testing results
 Where does pollution come from?
Beach water becomes polluted when rainwater washes pollutants (like animal feces, fertilizer, pesticides, and trash) from yards, farms, streets, and construction sites into the beach water. Pollutants can also come from sewage treatment plants and septic tanks that are not working right.

The pollutants cause microorganisms to grow in the water. Microorganisms are tiny living creatures that are too small to see with your eyes, so you can't tell if the water is clean by looking at it. Not all of them are bad, but some can make you sick. Some microorganisms at beaches are bacteria, viruses, worms and protozoa.
Bacteria can lead to infections, diarrhea, and stomach aches. Viruses can cause fever, colds, and intestinal infections. They can also make it hard for us to breathe. Some illnesses caused by worms are coughing, chest pain, fever, vomiting and restlessness. While protozoa can cause intestinal infections, stomach cramps and skin rashes. Pollutant levels are more likely to be high following heavy rainstorms.
Western U.P. District Health Department currently tests water quality weekly at 17 public bathing beaches across Gogebic, Ontonagon, Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw counties. Water quality parameters such as turbidity, temperature, and possible contamination sources are investigated at each beach. And the water is tested for the indicator organism E. coli.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the presence of E. coli bacteria in large numbers indicates that fecal contamination has occurred and harmful pathogens may be present in the water. Any beach with an unacceptable E. coli level is closed to swimming by the health department in order to protect public health until the contamination has cleared.

Weekly beach inspections and water quality monitoring is being conducted by the Health Department at the following Western U.P. public beaches and the test results may be viewed by checking the health department's website at or the MDEQ’s beach website at

Baraga County: L’Anse Waterfront Park

Gogebic County: Gogebic County Beach on Lake Gogebic
Lake Gogebic State Park
Sunday Lake Campground and Beach

Houghton County: Agate Beach
Chassell Beach
Dollar Bay Beach
Hancock City Park Beach
Houghton City Beach
Lake Linden Park
McLain State Park
Twin Lakes State Park

Keweenaw County: Eagle Harbor Beach

Ontonagon County: Bergland Beach on Lake Gogebic
Ontonagon Township Park
Ontonagon County Park on Lake Gogebic
Porcupine Mountain State Park

Western U.P. District Health Department provides public health services to residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties. In addition, its Superior Home Health and Hospice Division provides skilled home nursing and hospice services in the five counties. Western U.P District Health Department has offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer.



Health Department Recognizes
Donald B. Keith

Western U.P. District Health Department January 27, 2009

Donald B. Keith, Keweenaw County Commissioner, has completed a four year term on the Board of Health of Western U.P. District Health Department. Keith was recognized for his service to the health department and the practice of public health in the Western Upper Peninsula at the health board's January 26th meeting, according to Guy St. Germain, Health Officer.

Keith served on the Board of Health from 2005 through 2009. He served as Board Chair in 2007. "Don was recognized by his peers on the board for his hard work as a board member and officer," said St. Germain. "Don has been unwavering in his support for the role of public health."

The Board of Health is the policy board and governing body for the health department. Western U.P. District Health Department is a five county regional health department, and its board consists of two county commissioners from Ontonagon, Baraga, Keweenaw, and Gogebic Counties, and three commissioners from Houghton County.

Western U.P. District Health Department provides public health services to residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties. In addition, its Superior Home Health and Hospice Division provides skilled home nursing and hospice services in the five counties. Western U.P District Health Department has offices in Hancock, L'Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer.



Vaccines Are Not Just For Kids!

By Teresa Frankovich, M.D.
Medical Director for Western U.P. District Health Department and its Superior Home Health and Hospice Division

While it is important to ensure that all children are completely immunized, adults also should make sure that they are up to date on recommended vaccines. During this time of New Year's resolutions, make a promise to yourself to get caught up on any vaccines you may be missing.
We have all heard our doctor tell us to get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years because our immunity wears off (or after five years if you get a tetanus-prone injury). The tetanus shot you've been getting actually protects you against both tetanus and diphtheria. Now, because of the resurgence of the communicable disease pertussis (whooping cough) across the country, it is recommended that teens and adults make sure that one of their tetanus shots includes a booster for pertussis as well. This shot is called the Tdap (for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis).
This is particularly important if you are around young infants, who are the most vulnerable to serious infection and hospitalization. Every year, infants are hospitalized with pertussis, which can be severe enough to cause them to turn blue with coughing, have seizures and even die from the disease. Most adults with pertussis develop a prolonged, severe cough, but older adults and those with other serious health conditions can become very ill with pertussis.
For some time, people over 65 years of age, or those who have serious chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, have known that it is important to get a 'pneumonia' shot. The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends that adults 19-64 years of age who are smokers or have asthma also get the vaccine. The reason is that studies have shown that just like older adults and those with health problems, smokers and asthmatics are at higher risk for serious pneumococcal infections, even if they are young and otherwise healthy.
Most have us have now also heard about Gardasil, the new vaccine to prevent infection with the most serious strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). More than 50 percent of men and women are infected with this sexually transmitted virus at some time in their lives. In its mildest form, it may cause no symptoms or cases of genital warts, but the most severe strains can actually cause cervical cancer. It is estimated that more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases may be prevented through this vaccine. Girls and women between 11 and 26 years of age should be vaccinated to significantly reduce their risk of cervical cancer.
Next, a word about shingles. Shingles is a painful rash, often with blisters. Rarely, it can cause pneumonia, hearing problems, brain infection or even death. Shingles, also called 'Zoster,' is caused by a re-awakening of the chicken pox virus in some of the body's nerve cells. It is most common in older individuals or in people with weakened immune systems. If you live to be 85, you have about a 50-50 chance of developing shingles over your lifetime. There is now a vaccine that reduces the risk of getting shingles by half and can also make the episode less painful if it occurs in spite of vaccination. The vaccine is recommended once for everyone age 60 and over.
And finally, it's not too late to get the seasonal influenza vaccine if you haven't done so this year. Call your county health department office or physician to arrange for a flu shot.
So, talk to your doctor about which vaccines would be helpful in keeping you healthy. It is another occasion in which the old saying is true, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Editor's note: Dr. Frankovich is the

Free Radon Test Kits
at Western UP District Health Dept.


Hancock - January 5, 2009

 January is National Radon Action Month – Have you tested your home for Radon?

By: Lynne Madison, R.S.

January is National Radon Action Month and in our community, the Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department is offering free radon test kits to encourage home owners to protect their families from exposure to radon gas.

Radon exposure kills an estimated 20,000 people in the U.S. each year and is a significant risk in the Western Upper Peninsula where 10% of the homes tested in Houghton and Gogebic Counties have elevated radon levels. About 4% of the homes tested in Baraga, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon Counties were also found to have elevated radon levels. The easily preventable health risk of living with prolonged radon exposure can be dramatically reduced by using a free radon test kit and, if necessary, inexpensive home repair.

Source: US EPA
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that can accumulate in your home and can cause lung cancer. Radon comes from the bedrock and soil surrounding homes and can enter through cracks and openings in the foundation. Because you can’t see or smell radon, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a lung cancer risk in their own homes.
Source: US EPA

The only way to know if you and your family are at risk for radon exposure is to test your home. Conducting a radon test is as easy as opening a package, placing the detector in a designated area, and after a set number of days, sending the detector to the lab for analysis. Free test kits are available at every health department office. If your home does have an elevated level of radon, a qualified contactor can make repairs to solve the problem and protect your family. There are several proven methods to reduce radon in homes, but the one primarily used is a vent pipe and a fan which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.

The health department encourages new home builders to use radon-resistant construction techniques when designing and building new homes in the Western Upper Peninsula. With the prevalence of radon in our local soils, building radon-resistant new houses is just good planning. Radon-resistant construction techniques help block radon from entering the home and are more cost-effective to include while building a home, rather than installing a radon reduction system in an existing home.

The Western U.P. District Health Department urges residents of our community to take action this January – National Radon Action Month – by testing your home for radon. For more information about radon, obtaining a free radon test kit, radon mitigation, and radon-resistant new home construction, contact the health department at 906-482-7382 or visit our Web site at

Western U.P. District Health Department provides public health services to residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties. In addition, its Superior Home Health and Hospice Division provides skilled home nursing and hospice services in the five counties. Western U.P District Health Department has offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon and Bessemer.

Editor’s Note: Lynne Madison, is the Environment Health Division Director of the Western U.P. District Health Department.

For More Information: Lynne Madison, R.S.
Contact: Director, Environmental Health Division
Phone: 482-7382 or 884-4485
Fax: 482-9410