Int'l Falls Learns More about Healthcare Integration Plan

By KBJR News 1

September 18, 2012 Updated Sep 18, 2012 at 11:06 AM CDT

International Falls, MN (Northland’s NewsCenter) --- There's a growing concern about hospital and healthcare systems in International Falls.

On Monday, the public and city council learned more about an integration action plan put forth by Representatives of the Rainy Lake Medical Center and Essentia Health.

Mayor Tim "Chopper" McBride says he's received hundreds of calls and has spent numerous hours talking with community members concerned about their hospital and care services.

"The patient to doctor ratio has gone down so much that some are being forced to go out of town, to go to Duluth,Virginia, or Bemidji,” McBride said.” We don't' want that to happen. We want to bring doctors in here."

The Rainy Lake Medical Center Hospital board approached Essentia health to integrate its health care system in 2009, responding to what hospital officials say is a new reality in health care.

"Hospitals have to be affiliated with larger institutions in one form or fashion in order to survive," Bob Haley, Interim CEO of the Rainy Lake Medical Center Hospital Campus said.

Currently Essentia owns 50 percent of the hospital, and the other half is owned and operated by the hospital association members.

Financial systems are consolidated, but the hospital has not turned over its assets to Essentia.

"The best way to enhance recruiting here is to move toward full integration," Dr. Dan Nikcevich, Essentia Health President, CMO said.

Along with the goal to reach full integration, an idea to build a new more than $20 million hospital near the Medical Clinic within the next five years is up for discussion.

It would be located near the site of the new Good Samaritan Society Home Care Center, which is expected to be built by early 2014.

"This does take time,” Haley said. “The board realizes that the decision they make is irreversible."

Meanwhile, with a six month action plan public, hospital representatives say they will continue to make their integration plan more transparent to the community.

If a full integration were to happen, spokespeople from both sides say they will work to keep local control of the hospital, while gaining the efficiencies of the larger entity.
Jennifer Walch
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