Critical Unit Registered Nurse Bob Towne receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander from Licensed Practical Nurse Marna Bauer. (Submitted photo)

Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital, Rhinelander, began providing COVID-19 vaccinations to frontline caregivers on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Bob Towne, a Registered Nurse on the Critical Care Unit; Respiratory Therapist Chris Frederickson; and Pediatrician Dr. Julia Pickens were among the first recipients of the vaccine for Ascension Wisconsin in the Northwoods.

“This is very exciting, and I have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Towne, who has worked on the Critical Unit for the last five years. “It has been an extremely long 10 months, and this is the first time we feel we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ascension St. Mary’s will serve as the initial location in the Northwoods for COVID-19 vaccinations for Ascension Wisconsin associates and clinicians. The effort is part of a multi-phased program that will expand to other caregivers and locations as more doses become available and the distribution process progresses.

Among the first group eligible to receive the vaccines are frontline caregivers – particularly those serving in emergency departments, COVID-19 units and intensive care units.

In Wisconsin, Ascension operates 24 hospital campuses, more than 100 related healthcare facilities and employs more than 1,300 primary and specialty care clinicians from Racine to Eagle River.

Ascension is one of the leading nonprofit and Catholic health systems in the U.S., operating 2,600 sites of care – including 146 hospitals and more than 40 senior living facilities – in 19 states and the District of Columbia.