A new, free clinic for children might just be the sharpest facility in HealthSystem Minnesota. That is due not only to the charity of the carpenters who helped build it but also to the clarity of the system's goals.
Many providers say they will better their communities, but HealthSystem Minnesota has made a more specific promise. According to its 1996-1998 strategic plan, the system "will focus on the future in the communities we serve as it is embodied in its children," particularly through a partnership with schools.
"Health systems are jumping on the bandwagon and saying, `Oh, we should do good things for our communities and not just take care of the sick,'*" said James L. Reinertsen, M.D., chief executive officer of HealthSystem Minnesota. "Well, let's be realistic. We're going to take one thing we believe we can do: help kids in partnership with schools."
The system includes 426-bed Methodist Hospital, 400-physician Park Nicollet ClinicHealth, a network of 30 primary-care physicians, a foundation and a research institute. It's based in St. Louis Park, a Minneapolis suburb.
The system last fall decided to focus its community health efforts on children. At the time, its foundation already was encouraging grant proposals from organizations working with children and schools.
A broader statement of intent is fine as long as providers prioritize needs and provide resources to meet them, Reinertsen said.
But a specific statement sends a signal to the hospital staff and the community at large. "This tends to be something that captures the imagination, rather than some blah statement," he said. "People notice, and they come out of the woodwork."
In the case of the new Central Clinic, a construction company volunteered labor and materials. HealthSystem Minnesota had planned to spend about $100,000 if companies didn't donate their services. The cabinets and carpet provided are top of the line. "Our clinic manager tells me this is, no question about it, the classiest facility we have," Reinertsen said.
HealthSystem Minnesota employees worked to open the clinic, while St. Louis Park Public Schools donated space for the facility at a community center near a high school.
The Foundation HealthSystem Minnesota, the philanthropic arm of the system, awarded a one-year, $50,000 grant to fund clinic operations.
Physicians are donating their medical services.
The clinic inoculated its first tots earlier this month. It will provide a variety of free services one day a week during the summer to children up to age 18. Hours will be expanded when school begins, said Bridget Gothberg, the school district's community education director.
HealthSystem Minnesota's focus on children began with its foundation. In 1992, Mick Johnson, president of the foundation, asked community members if they would support a significant fund-raising campaign for the hospital. Johnson said he learned the community just didn't see a compelling need, so he began to turn more foundation resources away from the hospital. Last year, 66% of its $1.5 million in grants went to support the community, up from 55% in 1994, Johnson said.
Many hospital foundations also are finding it easier to raise money to benefit the community directly, instead of through projects that support hospital brick-and-mortar (Oct. 2, 1995, p. 76).
Both the foundation and the health system rely on research by the Minneapolis-based Search Institute to measure the success of their efforts.
The Search Institute says 30 key "assets" help children and teen-agers do well in school and avoid drugs, sex and alcohol. The markers include family support, peaceful conflict resolution, high self-esteem and valuing sexual restraint.
"While we're going to work on immunizations, we're also very aware of these nontraditional health areas-like `Do you have an adult you confide in?' A health system doesn't usually think of this," Reinertsen said.