Some rural Minnesota residents, disappointed with plans to sell their county hospital to a for-profit company, might try to find backers for a competing outpatient center.
Their group, the Itasca Health System, was founded last year to make sure the community had a voice in the future of healthcare in Itasca County, Minn. The effort involves about 50 business people, physicians and other residents.
The residents were working with three not-for-profit providers to bid for 73-bed Itasca Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Minn. (March 4, p. 40; May 6, p. 28).
In late May, the Itasca County board asked the providers to raise their offer, valued at about $9 million, by an additional $6 million. The providers refused, and board members voted 3-2 to begin negotiations with Champion Healthcare Corp. of Houston on a package of $21 million in cash and other commitments.
The not-for-profit providers include Allina Health System, Minneapolis; Benedictine Health System, Duluth, Minn.; and Duluth Clinic.
Itasca County is in northeastern Minnesota, about 160 miles north of the Twin Cities. About 40,000 people live in the area.
Itasca Health System representatives were scheduled to meet with Benedictine President Barry Halm late last week to discuss options. Tom Jackson, a local pharmacist and co-chair of Itasca Health System, said building an ambulatory-care clinic was one possibility. "I think the commissioners are making a mistake," Jackson said.
A Benedictine spokeswoman confirmed that a meeting was planned. "We would wish to continue to work with the communities in their healthcare delivery system," she said. "We have a strong desire to work with the facilities in Big Fork and Deer River, which are in Itasca County, and the physicians in Itasca County."