The Latest News


Stephenson County Health Department and FHN Collaborate for COVID-19 Vaccination Waiting List Sign-up Process

March 2, 2021 – The Stephenson County Health Department (SCHD) and FHN have announced consolidation of the online appointment request process for COVID-19 vaccinations. Effective immediately, the SCHD online waiting list site will no longer be available and all persons interested in being put on the list for vaccination appointments should add their names to the list being maintained by FHN at www.fhn.org.

"We are glad to turn over the process of maintaining and implementing the process for the vaccination waiting list to FHN," said Stephenson County Health Administrator Craig Beintema. "As the availability of vaccines expands and ever more people need to be scheduled, our limited staff will be fully engaged in requesting the vaccine from the Illinois Department of Public Health and distributing it for use throughout the County, as well as participating in many upcoming vaccination events. This will allow us to concentrate on those important tasks."

"FHN has a sound process in place for setting up vaccination appointments," said Kathy Martinez, MSN, RN, FACHE and FHN Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer. "Once people input their information into the online form, we call to schedule their vaccinations as soon as appointments are available, provided that vaccine is also available. We are currently hosting vaccination events three days a week at our primary COVID-19 vaccination location at 1763 S. Dirck Dr in Freeport, and are also vaccinating at community events throughout Northwest Illinois."

If individuals don't have access to the internet or need help completing the registration form, they can call FHN at 815-599-6412 for assistance.

FHN Begins to Ease Visitor Restrictions

February 22, 2021 – In the wake of reduced COVID-19 case numbers in the area, FHN is easing visitor restrictions for all of its locations. The changes go into effect today.

Out of an abundance of caution and to protect the health of our patients, staff, and community, hospitalized patients with diagnosed COVID-19 or in droplet isolation still are not allowed visitors.

Other visitors at FHN Memorial Hospital are permitted as follows:
• Hospital patients in the ICU and wings 4 East, 3 East, 3 North, and 2 North are allowed one visitor per day (7 days a week) between 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
• Emergency Room patients may have one designated support person per visit or two parents or guardians for patients under age 18.
• Patients in the FHN Family Birthing Center are allowed one designated support person per day.
• Pediatric patients under the age of 18 may have two parents or guardians per day.
• Hospital outpatients are allowed one designated support person per visit or two parents or guardians for patients under age 18. Visiting hours are based on the time of procedure.

Masks must be worn throughout the hospital, and visitors must remain in the patient's room at all times. No visitors under age 18 are permitted.

Please visit the main registration desk during business hours if you have questions, or the check-in desk in the ED after hours or for ED questions.

Office Practices
Patients at all of FHN's office practices are allowed one designated support person per visit, or two parents or guardians for patients under age 18. (No visitors under the age of 18 are permitted.) Masks must be worn throughout the visit, and visitors must remain in the patient's room.

FHN Receives Grant for Vaping Prevention Program

February 17, 2021 – FHN, with the support of the Substance Use Prevention Services grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, is excited to announce the launch of a vaping prevention communication campaign targeting the high school population in Jo Daviess and Stephenson counties.

Every two years, the majority of local high schools participate in the Illinois Youth Survey (IYS). Although the results of the 2020 survey were limited due to school closures last spring, the results continue to show an increasing trend in the use of e-cigarettes, especially among the 10th grade population in Jo Daviess County, which is above state average. (Complete information can be found on the IYS website, www.fhn.org/SUP.)

In 2017, through the support of the Substance Use Prevention Program and the Strategic Prevention Partnership for Success grants from the Illinois Department of Human Services, FHN partnered with the county middle schools for an alcohol prevention campaign which included communication materials and an extensive multi-session youth prevention education program. The 2020 IYS results in Jo Daviess and Stephenson counties showed a decrease in alcohol use by the 8th and 12th grade students compared to previous years. These programs are continuing in most of the local schools.

In the fall of 2020, FHN completed an analysis of the Jo Daviess and Stephenson counties' IYS data and conducted a marketing survey of more than 95 high school students. The various vaping prevention communication campaign materials were designed by the state with youth feedback. The communication campaign consists of a series of posters, newsletters, banners, school announcements and local billboards. The theme of the campaign focuses on the positive “I Don't Vape Because I Need My Lungs to …” and includes informative facts related to the use of e-cigarettes/vaping. The effectiveness of the campaign will be evaluated by the 2022 and 2024 Illinois Youth Survey.

All six of the Jo Daviess County high schools and Freeport High School have partnered with FHN to support the campaign, which is scheduled to run through December 2021.

For more information visit www.fhn.org/SUP.

COVID-19 Surge Easing in Northwest Illinois

February 15, 2021 – The number of new COVID-19 cases in northwest Illinois is down a bit, giving FHN front-line healthcare workers a bit of welcome respite, said FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

Now is not the time, however, to relax the precautions we've all been taking to slow the spread of COVID-19, said FHN Chief Hospitalist and Medical Director of FHN Community Healthcare Center Clarence Parks, MD.

“Flu season runs through June, and the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 can be quite similar, including cough, congestion, a sore throat and respiratory distress,” Dr. Parks said. If you are experiencing those symptoms, consult your primary healthcare provider. He or she may order a test for influenza, COVID-19 or even both.

It's not too late to get a flu shot, Dr. Parks said, and he strongly recommends that everyone should get vaccinated for COVID-19 when they can.

FHN is working with area county health departments and the State of Illinois to get enough vaccine to the area and organize vaccination events, Gridley said. The health departments don't control whether they receive Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, so a choice can't be offered. “It's a very dynamic situation, and the vaccine we administer depends on what is available,” Gridley said.

The majority of FHN staff has received at least their first COVID-19 vaccination, he says, and many have had both doses.

“We don't want people to put off seeing their provider for preventative visits, and of course, you should see your provider if you're not feeling well,” Gridley said. “All of our locations are open and safe to visit, and we are offering our full scope of services.”

Gridley encourages people in the community to take a breath and enjoy the slowdown in the pandemic's spread, but not to relax too much.

“Continue to take precautions “ wash your hands often, watch your distance from people, and wear a mask.” Gridley said. “Let's keep pushing through to reach the finish line.”

This week's video can be viewed at www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

Vaping Prevention

February 12, 2021 – FHN, with the support of the Substance Use Prevention Services grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, is excited to announce the launch of a vaping prevention communication campaign in Jo Daviess and Stephenson Counties targeting the High School population.

Every two years the majority of local high schools participate in the Illinois Youth Survey (IYS). Although the results of the 2020 survey were limited due to the school closures last spring, the results continue to show an increasing trend in the use of e-cigarettes especially amongst the 10th grade population in Jo Daviess County, which is above state average. (Reference: IYS website)

In 2017, through the support of the Substance Use Prevention Program and the Strategic Prevention Partnership for Success grants from the Illinois Department of Human Services, FHN partnered with the county middle schools with an alcohol prevention campaign which included communication materials and an extensive multi-session youth prevention education program. The 2020 IYS results in Jo Daviess and Stephenson County showed a decrease in alcohol use by the 8th and 12th grade students compared to previous years. These programs are continuing in most of the local schools.

In the fall of 2020, FHN completed an analysis of the Jo Daviess and Stephenson Counties IYS data, and conducted a marketing survey of over 95 high school students. The various vaping prevention communication campaign materials were designed by the state with youth feedback. The communication campaign consists of a series of posters, newsletters, banners, school announcements and local billboards. The theme of the campaign focuses on the positive “I Don't Vape Because I Need My Lungs to…” and includes informative facts related to the use of e-cigarettes/vaping. The effectiveness of the campaign will be evaluated by the 2022 and 2024 Illinois Youth Survey.

All six of the Jo Daviess County High Schools, and Freeport High School have partnered with FHN to support the campaign, which is scheduled to run through December 2021.

For more information visit www.fhn.org/SUP

Illinois Workforce Partnership Honors FHN

February 9, 2021 – FHN has received the 2020 Business Leadership Award from the Illinois Workforce Partnership (IWP).

The IWP honors 66 companies of all sizes in the state each year for excellence in workforce services and economic development. Each of the 22 workforce development boards in Illinois selects a winner for the three categories of awards presented by the IWP. This category recognizes a private-sector company that has demonstrated leadership in the areas of workforce services and economic development and has made significant contributions to its local workforce area.

The Workforce Connection in FHN's service area (Boone, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties) selected FHN for the award because of its excellence in addressing workforce needs, especially during (and because of) a pandemic, using its incumbent worker training and developing an apprenticeship model.

This is the third time FHN has been recognized by the State of Illinois for its creativity in workforce development. Previous honors included the CNA to RN Scholarship Program and as a partner in the development of the Northwest Illinois Workforce Collaborative.

FHN Expands Mammogram Hours in Freeport

February 3, 2021 – Though it's tempting to let things "slide" as we practice pandemic safety precautions, important screening tests can't wait. FHN is offering pandemic-safe expanded hours for mammograms at the FHN Women's Diagnostic Center at FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport.

Appointments are available beginning at 6:30 a.m. each weekday with extended hours from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Saturday appointments are available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Women's Diagnostic Center staff follow rigorous cleaning and safety protocols to help avoid the spread of COVID-19, and appointments are scheduled to minimize wait time.

Women may schedule a mammogram with one call to FHN's scheduling experts at 815-599-6860. For more information on women's healthcare at FHN, visit www.fhn.org.

FHN Expands Mammogram Hours in Freeport

February 3, 2021 – Though it's tempting to let things "slide" as we practice pandemic safety precautions, important screening tests can't wait. FHN is offering pandemic-safe expanded hours for mammograms at the FHN Women's Diagnostic Center at FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport.

Appointments are available beginning at 6:30 a.m. each weekday with extended hours from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Saturday appointments are available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Women's Diagnostic Center staff follow rigorous cleaning and safety protocols to help avoid the spread of COVID-19, and appointments are scheduled to minimize wait time.

Women may schedule a mammogram with one call to FHN's scheduling experts at 815-599-6860. For more information on women's healthcare at FHN, visit www.fhn.org.

FHN Offering $119 Heart Tests for American Heart Month

February 1, 2021 – Most heart attacks could be prevented with early diagnosis of risk factors for coronary artery disease. FHN is celebrating American Heart Month in February with special pricing on two heart health tests.

Call by Friday, Feb. 26 to schedule a Standard Walking Treadmill Stress Test or Calcium Scoring CT Heart Scan and pay just $119 for the test.

"The treadmill stress test is a screening test for determining a patient's heart health when they are able to walk and have no history of heart trouble," said Kristine Fosler, ACNP-BC, a nurse practitioner who cares for patients in the cardiology department at FHN. "The patient walks on a treadmill while a specially trained registered nurse monitors how his or her heart is working with an electrocardiogram. This test helps determine your exercise capacity and the circulation to the heart, which is helpful in determining the cause of unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats during exercise or existing or borderline high blood pressure." "Another simple screening test that FHN offers is a CT scan to detect plaque in the arteries," Fosler said. "The test is non-invasive and is used to predict the probability of future heart problems. Like the treadmill test, it doesn't take long to complete."

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call toll-free 1-877-6000-FHN (1-877-600-0346) ext. 944. Test appointments must be scheduled by Friday, Feb. 26 and tests must be performed by Friday, May 28, 2021 to qualify for the special rate.

All current COVID-19 precautions will be taken when the tests are performed. These tests do not replace consultations with your healthcare provider. If you do not have a primary healthcare provider, FHN will work with you to determine how to handle your test results when they are communicated to you. Payment for the tests is due (cash, checks and credit cards accepted) at the time of service.

FHN Experts Praise Communities for Avoiding COVID-19 Spike

February 1, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, and Chief Quality Officer and Family Medicine physician Rebecca Pedersen, MD, CPE, FAAFP thank the region's residents for staying safe through the holidays in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

“We thankfully haven't seen an uptick after the holidays,” Gridley said, crediting the area's citizens for their patience and for following the recommendations to help stop the spread of COVID-19. “We appreciate the actions everyone has taken for their own health, and the health of others.”

Dr. Pedersen reports that the precautions people are taking are paying off: “We've seen families that have had just one person with COVID-19, because the sick person isolated away from the others and everyone was respectful of the precautions and kept their germs to themselves.”

On average, just 6 to 10 percent of COVID-19 patients will have symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization, Pedersen said. She advises those who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are suffering from mild symptoms to contact their healthcare provider for a possible referral to FHN's Acute Respiratory Clinic.

“If you have COVID-19 and your symptoms are mild, you will be able to isolate at home for 2 to 3 weeks,” Pedersen said. “Stay hydrated, use over-the-counter medicines to help ease your symptoms, get lots of rest and just take good care of yourself.”

“Everyone recovers at their own speed,” she said. “If you're sick, be respectful of your health and others, and stay home.”

Gridley reports that well over half of FHN staffers have received their first COVID-19 vaccination, and are on track to get their second dose on time. They haven't seen any severe side effects in those who've received the vaccine, though some people have reported mild fatigue, headaches, and chills.

“We are working with the Stephenson County Health Department and other health departments in the area to coordinate vaccination clinics for the general public as soon as it's possible,” Gridley said. “We'll share details on those vaccination clinics in the regular media, online, and on social media as soon as we can.”

“In the meantime, please continue to follow the precautions - wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance, and stay safe,” he said.

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site, www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

FHN Experts Talk about Area's COVID-19 Progress

January 18, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, and Emergency Department Medical Director Erich Awender, MD talk about the region's success in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and Dr. Awender shares details on his own fight with the disease in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

Dr. Awender contracted COVID-19 in late October 2020 after about 8 months of seeing COVID-positive patients.

"Since the onset (of COVID-19) in January, I've probably seen 1 to 2 patients each shift, and when we've had upticks, I've seen 5 or 6 or even more each shift," Awender said.

He first suspected he had COVID-19 when he noticed a change in his senses of taste and smell. Dr. Awender missed three weeks of work with COVID-19 and reports his senses of taste and smell and his energy levels haven't yet returned to normal.

His advice to the community mirrors Mark Gridley's - stay diligent about social distancing, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene and stay home if you are sick.

Gridley reports that FHN's leaders are working with area county health departments to coordinate getting community members vaccinated. Our area is in phase 1a of the Illinois Department of Public Health plan, and the vaccine will be made available to the public as soon as it's possible.

FHN is well-prepared to care for any upcoming surge in cases, with plenty of beds, healthcare staff, and ventilators available. FHN's frontline staffers are in the process of being vaccinated. "We are using both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine," Gridley said. "A number of staff members have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are now considered to be 95 percent protected from the virus. Several hundred staff members have received at least their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, as well, at the time of this video production."

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site, www.fhn.org/coronavirus.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in Northwest Illinois

January 15, 2021 – The Stephenson County Health Department and FHN are working together to coordinate vaccination efforts for COVID-19 in Stephenson and Carroll Counties in Northwest Illinois. In order to keep the public up to date, here are answers to commonly asked questions.

1. When can I get a vaccination? That depends on which of the identified phases from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as interpreted by your State and County, you fall into and the availability of the vaccine.

2. What are the phases identified by the CDC? The phases describe groups of people based on potential vulnerability to COVID-19 and/or exposure to others who already have or may have the disease.

3. Who is getting it now? The first phase to receive the vaccine nationwide is healthcare workers. It is up to States and individual county health departments to provide the vaccine - only county health departments can receive the vaccine and the number of doses is determined by the States;. this is not like annual flu shot vaccines which are ordered by healthcare organizations as well as many other places who vaccinate the public, like drug stores or grocery store pharmacies. For the vaccination of first-phase healthcare workers, once a county health department receives a shipment of vaccine, they let healthcare organizations know how much is available and then the healthcare organizations themselves define which workers this includes and in what order, based on staff vulnerability and patient interactions. Because county health departments receive vaccine as it becomes available, no counties have enough initially for the whole population of the county.

4. Who will receive the vaccine next? This is difficult to answer definitively as guidance from the CDC on this has changed several times already and continues to be modified. In addition, “guidance from the CDC” is just that: guidance. States and individual counties are not required to follow this guidance. Originally, the next planned phase was residents and staff of long-term care facilities like nursing homes. However, it is still up to states and then individual county health departments to make the determination of who will be next based on the supply of vaccine that is available to them, which is not consistent across the country. No detailed schedule has been finalized in Stephenson or Carroll Counties as the availability of the vaccine continues to be inconsistent.

5. Why is vaccine availability inconsistent? There is no really clear answer to this, as the media has reported on circumstances that vary widely throughout the country. It is best to keep current on the situation in your own county to learn when it will be available for you. 6. What is the availability of vaccine in Stephenson and Carroll Counties? This cannot be answered broadly as the amount varies. In addition, sometimes a supply is expected and then not received, which can happen for a variety of reasons including rerouting it to other areas where incidence or death rates are higher.

7. When will mass vaccination events be scheduled for the public at large? There is no way to answer this now that can promise to still be accurate over the coming weeks and months, so as of now no mass public vaccination events are planned in Stephenson or Carroll counties. As vaccine becomes available, there will be opportunities to register for appointments for vaccinations. Please note that information being collected now by some entities in the region is not a promise of a vaccination at any particular time; in general, these queries are being conducted to help determine how many people are planning to be vaccinated as the vaccine is being rolled out. Vaccination appointments will then be offered as vaccine becomes available.

The public is encouraged to watch all media, social as well as traditional, for updates, which will be communicated as quickly and accurately as possible. Additional information can be found at the Illinois Department of Public Health (https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19) and the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/). Patience is greatly appreciated.

FHN Announces 2020 Scholarship Winners

January 15, 2021 – An outstanding group of students applied for this year's FHN Healthcare Scholarships, Diversity Scholarship, and Volunteer Services Scholarship. FHN hosted a virtual event to honor this year's recipients.

The students wrote an essay about their career path along with strengths and personal goals to support the healthcare needs of FHN's service area. The top candidates were invited to a virtual interview with the committee.

After the interviews, the committee chose three $1,000 Healthcare Scholarship recipients, one $1,000 Diversity Scholarship recipient, and one $500 Volunteer Services Scholarship recipient.

See a video of the recipients receiving their awards.

The 2020 Healthcare Career Scholarships winners are:

Rebecca Alexander of Chadwick, who is pursuing an occupational therapy degree at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa

Rebecca Ensor of Freeport, who is pursuing an occupational therapy degree at Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa

Hanna Miner of Pecatonica, who is pursuing a sonography degree at Rockford Career College in Rockford

The 2020 Diversity Scholarship winner is Elizabeth Petersen of Freeport, who is pursuing a nursing degree at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

The 2020 Volunteer Services winner is Adam Thompson of Freeport, who is pursuing a degree in Healthcare IT at Highland Community College in Freeport.

Congratulations to all our scholarship winners!

FHN Holding Virtual Hiring Event

January 14, 2021 – FHN is accepting applications and holding virtual interviews for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs), experienced Registered Nurses (RNs), and Behavioral Health Technicians through January 28.

Interested candidates can apply online at any time; qualified candidates will be contacted to arrange a virtual interview beginning Monday, Jan. 18.

All positions offer a competitive salary, day-one benefits, tuition assistance and opportunities for career advancement. Commitment awards are available for all positions.

Candidates must complete a formal application online before the interview is conducted. For more information or to apply online, visit www.fhn.org/virtualhiring. Information is also available through FHN Human Resources at 815-599-6706.

Crisis Stabilization Center Opens at FHN Family Counseling Center

January 5, 2021 – The Dr. Ravi and Mrs. Minu Vyas Crisis Stabilization Center at the FHN Family Counseling Center, a special unit to serve people facing a substance abuse or behavioral health crisis, has opened and is available to serve patients.

Before the Crisis Stabilization Center (CSC) was available, someone experiencing a mental health crisis may have spent many hours, or even days, in the Emergency Department at FHN Memorial Hospital )or another hospital) until they could be transferred to an inpatient unit or stabilized and released back into the community. The (CSC) gives them another option to receive coordinated care in a local, relaxing, living room-type environment until they can be transferred or until a care plan can be established and the patient is better prepared to go home.

The CSC's open floor plan allows staff to monitor patients in a home-like setting where they are free to read, watch TV, sleep, or talk when they are not in individual or group counseling sessions, which are scheduled daily. Patients are cared for by a multidisciplinary team including a psychiatric provider, psychiatric nurses, and mental health therapists, all dedicated to helping them cope.

Patients appropriate for this care setting are those experiencing a behavioral health crisis without present aggressions. The patients must be voluntary to access treatment and willing to participate in the treatment program. This is a 24/7 program, with patients spending the night in the care environment.

Out of an abundance of caution with regards to COVID-19 safety restrictions, no ribbon-cutting or public open house is planned, and no tours are available.

For more information regarding the Center, the public can call 815-599-7800.