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Thankful for independent hospitals

By Staff | Jan 27, 2019

I was at a gathering of some old friends last weekend in Mankato, some of whom I had not seen in many, many years.

Some were from Southwestern Minnesota, some from the north Metro area, or central Minnesota and yes, Mankato.

Oh, yes, and Blue Earth.

Somehow medical ailments and treatments became a topic of conversation. That happens a lot these days when folks my age get together. Most of us there were pushing 70 at least all of us were over 65 and on Medicare.

That translated to tales of trips to hospitals for various ailments and things. And that led me to tell about the hospital and clinic here in Blue Earth.

I will have to admit, I have been very impressed with United Hospital District practically since the first day I was here, nearly 12 years ago.

Then hospital administrator Jeff Lang gave me the grand tour of the facility shortly after my moving here.

I was amazed. I could hardly believe a hospital this size and with this many doctors was in a town the size of Blue Earth.

And now, in these past 12 years, the hospital tore down the old original part of the hospital, built an all new wing on the north side, then bought up nearby houses on the south side and built a big new clinic. They also added an ambulance area on the east side.

Now this week’s front page story tells about another $6 million project to remodel the emergency room area and several other spaces in the hospital and clinic.

Since I had recently gathered information on all this work, as well as background on UHD itself, I was able to tell my old friends about it that Saturday night.

I told them about all the expansion work that has gone on in the past 12 years. I mentioned that there are 10 doctors on staff, and another seven medical practitioners who are Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNP) or Physicians Assistants (PA-C), plus more medical specialists.

And, that we have another doctor coming in June, and she will be the third OB doc on staff (one full time OB/GYN and two family practice/OB docs). And that is because around 70 babies were born at UHD in 2017 and they probably hit 80 this past year.

I?told them about the care my family and I have received there, from surgeries to physical therapy, from the birth of a granddaughter to the last days of my mother’s life.

To echo the words of the M.A.S.H. TV show, “Best Care Anywhere.”

And to finish it up, I added the fact that our local Blue Earth hospital is not connected with Mayo, Sanford, Avera, Allina or Abbott Northwestern or anyone else.

Totally independent, I said.

I am not sure they believed my story. At the very least they were extremely skeptical. At the most they thought I was making it all up.

“How big is Blue Earth?” they asked. “Oh, about 3,500” I answered. “And they have that kind of hospital there?” I did admit UHD serves more than just the city of Blue Earth.

So, next I hit them with the fact that UHD is a hospital district. And, like a school district, they have the ability to tax the property owners in the district to operate the hospital or fund the big remodeling projects.

But they don’t.

That got some head shaking going on. I think it was beyond their comprehension.

One of them asked how it was possible that Blue Earth’s UHD could have 10 medical doctors on staff. Isn’t that impossible, they pondered. Aren’t all hospitals trying to get more docs on staff?

So I asked UHD CEO Rick Ash that question. He agreed it is surprising but that it takes some hard work and a little luck. He says it is a group effort, and is not just him being a great recruiter.

When they are recruiting doctors to come to Blue Earth, the potential doctors meet with the current staff and are impressed with the team effort going on at UHD, and with the facility itself and the whole Blue Earth area.

So, the doctors already here are the best recruiters of more medical professionals. The fact that the hospital board has some doctors on it doesn’t hurt either. The new docs see the UHD doctors have input into what is going on and not just have policies dictated by someone far away.

Whatever UHD’s technique, it seems to be working well.

And it is a huge blessing to this community to have such an incredible facility here. From the excellent medical care here to the fact they employ 246 people with an annual payroll of over $14 million, UHD has a major economic and developmental impact on Blue Earth and Faribault County.

We should all be thankful they are here, at least I hope you are. I know I am.