Kelly Elkins

The Interview


Kelly Elkins   


Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s

Employees: 3,540

As of July 1, Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee in Mequon assumed operations of Columbia Center Birth Hospital. The board of the former independent birthing hospital, which has been located on the Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee campus since 2007, decided to cease operations and transfer its services to Ascension, citing long-term financial considerations. The adoption of the birthing hospital is one of several moves positioning Ascension for growth in the Ozaukee County market. BizTimes reporter Lauren Anderson recently spoke with Kelly Elkins, president of Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s, about the health system’s plans.

Credit: Lila Aryan Photography

What does the adoption of the birth center mean for Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s?

“We have been operating as two separate hospital entities, sharing a campus, but now that service and operation is under the management and operation of Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s. For us, it is important because we want to ensure access to obstetrical care to the community. We felt it was important to maintain access and not just look at the status quo, but to look to the future. Ozaukee County and that surrounding service area continue to grow and we want to make sure that we have a vibrant program for that community.”

How do you see Ascension growing services there?

“We’re expecting around 500 deliveries (per year) at the site, but we’re looking to the future of how we can grow even beyond that number. We have the capability to do more deliveries than that on the campus, so the infrastructure is there to support it. For Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s, we’ve been in the baby business for many years at our Milwaukee campus so it’s a great extension for our patients to have multiple options within the CSM grouping of facilities. If the Milwaukee campus isn’t the right fit for them to deliver, they now have that option within the network in Ozaukee County.”

What about concerns from those who liked the independent hospital experience?

“Our intention is to maintain the best parts of the Columbia Center Birth Hospital legacy and reputation. The birth center has a very unique patient experience – we offer a doula program, there is a higher rate of natural childbirth delivery, it’s set up in a different physical environment that’s much more akin to a home environment. It’s unique. The biggest concern from folks would be: Is the experience going to change? Are these unique opportunities to have this more natural birth experience going to change? And that’s a resounding no. There are aspects of the care that was provided there related to sterilization that, as part of the Ethical and Religious Directives we follow, we cannot continue to offer. But we have worked with our physicians in a collaborative manner so that they know what their options are.”

How else is Ascension expanding services in Ozaukee County?

“In February, we opened an urgent care center in Grafton. Since that opened, we’ve seen 1,918 patients; 47 percent of those were new to our system, which was the plan. We wanted to enhance access to our system to the community. It’s quick access, easy in-and-out, a lower cost point than a traditional emergency department visit. But again, it helps foster that growth and makes them aware of Ascension and CSM in the community.

“In late spring, we launched our geriatric-friendly emergency department. Roughly 42 percent of the patients we see at CSM Ozaukee are in the 65+ age range. …We crafted the ED from a physical and aesthetic environment standpoint to be more soothing and safe for patients.”

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