Big turnout for celebration

Skip Schulz/For the Gazette Aspirus-Ontonagon Hospital celebrated its 10th anniversary under tents due to rain earlier this month.

Rain didn’t keep more than 400 people from celebrating Aspirus-Ontonagon Hospital’s 10th anniversary held earlier this month.

The event was held outside of the hospital under tents, and included games, prizes, food, and the opportunity for both local hospital management and management from Aspirus out of Wausau.

“Coming to Ontonagon was the best move Aspirus ever made in history,” stated Rick Nevers, Senior Vice President, Regional Operations and Systems Integration Office of Aspirus, Inc. “This has allowed Aspirus to develop and provide a better health care environment to the entire U.P.”

The history of Ontonagon and a hospital goes back to the mid-1800s. The current hospital was built in 1970, and 10 years ago Aspirus took over the hospital from the village of Ontonagon.

“Without Aspirus in Ontonagon County, this hospital would not exist. Aspirus has been such a partner in the community of Ontonagon,” said Aspirus-Ontonagon board member J.R. Richardson. Richardson also commended the employees for their dedication.

Richardson and Lee Ann Jessup, office manager for the hospital, both talked about how important the hospital is for economic development.

“Aspirus realizes that for any large company to come into the area, there are so many things that those companies have to have. One of the number one things is they have to have emergency care to be within so many miles of where they put their facility,” Jessup remarked. “It’s a critical component of bringing bigger businesses to the area.”

People from all over the area took part in the celebration, of which Pam Karttunen, marketing director for Aspirus-Ontonagon, emphatically stated her appreciation as to how it wasn’t just village residents taking part in the festivities.

“It was great to see people from throughout the county show up,” Karttunen said. “We had a barbeque with great food that our cafeteria staff made. We had a lot of prizes and games, and everyone won something.”

The event has been in the works for a long time, according to Karttunen.

“We knew it was our 10th anniversary, so we wanted to celebrate with both the community and our employees,” she said.

Aspirus-Ontonagon is the largest employer in Ontonagon County.

“It’s not just good for our area, but it’s good for the livelihood of our employees,” Karttunen said.

Both Karttunen and Jessup talked about how vital the hospital is since any other health care and emergency services are many miles away from Ontonagon.

“It’s important to give the health care people need immediately and if needed get them to a larger facility,” Karttunen said.

Aspirus-Ontonagon has emergency helicopter and fixed-wing capabilities. The hospital has a helipad, and has local capability to get a patient to Ontonagon Airport for fixed-wing transport. The fixed-wing transport is critical if the weather does not allow for a helicopter.

“Aspirus is a big proponent of small communities, so that people can get the health care and services they need so they don’t have to travel so far,” Jessup said.

After Aspirus saw the support from the local area, the nonprofit health care provider made a commitment to the future of the hospital. Jessup stated that Aspirus brings in specialists and has reinvested in the hospital with a new “state-of-the-art emergency room” and updated patient rooms.

“Quality and excellent care is how we came to Ontonagon and still how we are today and how we will be in the future,” Jessup said.