I am old enough to remember painfully well how close we came to losing the Sandstone hospital in the 1980s. For years the hospital struggled to stay financially afloat but by 1989 they were set to close. That is when the North Pine Area Hospital District was created. The Minnesota legislature recognized that rural communities needed help to keep local, quality health care in their areas, therefore they gave local communities the authority to establish a hospital district.

Our community leaders had the wisdom to come together to establish the North Pine Area Hospital District. This relatively modest tax kept the hospital doors open these past 30 years and enabled us to build the new Pine Healthcare Campus, while keeping the tax levy flat for the past 20 years.

The hospital district investment of the modern, efficient Pine Healthcare Campus two years ago reinvigorated Essentia Health, Gateway Family Health Clinic and Thrifty White Pharmacy. Essentia Health is now able to grow their health care services and already has expanded within its location at Pine Healthcare Campus. Gateway introduced tele-psychiatry last year and is now providing the space for new outpatient mental health therapy and added a new Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with another one coming this fall. All of these enhancements are life-saving and health restoring programs.

Here are a few examples of additional hospital district investments in improving health care in 2019.

• Grant/funding program – This year the Hospital District established a grant and funding program to help improve health care services or attract new health care providers to fill the health care service gaps in the area. There are eligibility guidelines and applications for making grant and funding requests on the website at: www.PineHospitalDistrict.com.

• Mental Health Services – This is the first use of the grant program of the Hospital District to bring outpatient mental health therapy to the Pine Healthcare Campus. Therapeutic Services Agency will be providing therapy for children, teens and adults. They will start with therapy sessions provided twice per week in July.

• Ambulance/Essentia Office Building - The Hospital District has approved funding of $350,000 for the construction of the new Ambulance and Office building located on the Pine Healthcare Campus. The construction is expected to be complete late this fall. This was necessitated because the new Essentia Health Infusion Center took the administrative office space. The Hospital District owns the building and Essentia Health operates the ambulance service.

• First Responder Funding – The Hospital District will contribute $10,000 for the First Responder program, which will be managed by Essentia Health’s Community Engagement Committee. The Hospital District funds will go only to our member cities and townships and will be used to purchase additional equipment and supplies needed for the first responders. For example, Essentia Health granted $1,400 to the Duxbury first responders for new AED machines to replace the old ones.

We encourage citizens to let us know  how we can improve health care for our area. Reach out to any of our Board members and talk to them about your thoughts on improving health care in the area.

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