Residents of a rural Minnesota county will bid for control of its hospital in an unusual display of community interest.
The group, which is calling itself Itasca Health System, is working with a consortium of three providers: Allina Health System, Benedictine Health System and Duluth Clinic.
They will submit a joint proposal to Itasca County, which is seeking a buyer for its 73-bed Itasca County Medical Center (Jan. 1, p. 14).
About 50 businesspeople, physicians and other residents formed the group last year. "This group felt very strongly about local control," said Tom Jackson, its co-chair and a community pharmacist. "We wanted a voice in what level of healthcare was going to be delivered here. We didn't want that decision made in Minneapolis or Duluth.
"We sent letters out to eight or nine major players and asked them if they were interested in responding with us. We were looking for capital. We were looking for management expertise," Jackson said.
Itasca County requested proposals last year from buyers that would develop a countywide integrated system. Proposals are due March 29.
About 35 groups have asked for information, and at least two proposals are expected, said Susan Clark of McGladrey & Pullen, a Minneapolis-based firm that is overseeing the process for the county.
Itasca County Medical Center earned about $1.1 million on net revenues of $20.2 million in 1995, according to unaudited data. The hospital also includes a 34-bed skilled-nursing unit.
It is located in Grand Rapids, Minn., about 200 miles north of the Twin Cities. About 40,000 people live in the area.
If the residents' proposal is accepted, a 20-member governing board will oversee the hospital. Community members will name 14 members; each provider partner will name two.
Allina and Benedictine have agreed to finance the venture. The Benedictine system is coordinating the effort.
"By collaborating with the community and our partners, we are able to combine the strengths and skills of each," said Barry Halm, Benedictine president and chief operating officer. "Our efforts with Itasca Health System and the consortium are a fulfillment of our mission."
The system runs 17 hospitals.
Allina, a Minneapolis-based system, operates 19 hospitals and covers almost 1 million people through its health plans.
Duluth Clinic includes 280 physicians and 23 clinics>