New River Medical Center narrows partner list to Fairview, CentraCare

A task force formed by the New River Medical Center’s non-profit board has narrowed the possible hospital affiliation partner list from two to four.
Fairview Health Services and CentraCare Health Systems were announced as affiliation finalists Thursday, Oct. 11, during a board of directors presentation.
CentraCare’s network includes the St. Cloud Hospital, Long Prairie Hospital, Melrose Hospital, CentraCare Heart and Vascular, Coborn Cancer Center, Big Lake Clinic and Monticello Cancer Center. Fairview Health Services includes the Maple Grove Hospital, Fairview Ridges, Fairview Southdale, Fairview Lakes, the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview Northland and Ebenezer Homes.The selected hospital affiliation partner will operate under a long-term lease.

Steve Heath (right), addresses the Monticello-Big Lake Hospital Board of Directors Thursday, Oct. 11. Heath is a member of the New River Medical Center's non-profit force that recommended Fairview Health Services and CentraCare Health Systems be selected as hospital affiliation finalists.
Steve Heath (right), addresses the Monticello-Big Lake Hospital Board of Directors Thursday, Oct. 11. Heath is a member of the New River Medical Center’s non-profit force that recommended Fairview Health Services and CentraCare Health Systems be selected as hospital affiliation finalists. (Photo by Tim Hennagir)

The public can attend a 7 p.m. community forum Tuesday, Oct. 30 at New River Medical Center to learn more about the second phase of New River Medical Center’s affiliation process.
The task force has been exploring the pros and cons of affiliating with a larger system for a number of months.
Its members include Ervin Danielowski, hospital board chairman, Candace Benoit, board member, Steve Heath, community member, Bob Esse, community member, Dr. Mark Bonneville, M.D., Dr. Troy Ivey, as well as seven non-voting and advisory board members from New River Medical Clinic: CEO Marshall Smith, Nancy Friesen, chief financial officer; Lynn Wieczorek, chief compliance officer; Dr. Mark Dietz, chief medical officer, Euretta Sorenson, chief nursing officer and Karen Lindgren, executive assistant.
Last Thursday’s affiliation recommendation presentation was led by Esse.
He outlined criteria addressed by the health systems that made initial presentations.
The task force reached out to a number of health systems including Allina, CentraCare, Fairview, Mayo, North and Sanford. New River Medical Clinic’s non-profit task force received interest from Allina, CentraCare, Fairview and North.
The four interested systems visited with the Affiliation Task Force during the month of September and early October.
The task force established the following criteria for the systems:
Recruit and retain primary care and specialty providers who support local health care; continue to invest in facility, capital and technological advances to help the New River Medical Center remain state-of-the-art; maintain, develop and grow services to ensure a continuum of health care services are offered and provided locally; disclose and share all past and current relationships and real/potential conflicts of interest; ensure financial viability by guaranteeing current bond debt and encourage continued input by guaranteeing existence of a local governing board and/or community representatives. Based on the systems’ initial presentations, Fairview and CentraCare were selected.
“The hospital district will continue to own the facilities. We’ll get a long-term lease with somebody,” Esse said. “The days of independent hospitals are over.”
Esse said the task force sent request for proposals to all six health care systems. Sanford and Mayo both indicated they were not ready to come into this area.
“Every one of the four brought their top management, and typically, they brought thick books with them filled with confidential information,” Esse said. “There’s
information in there that one hospital certainly didn’t want passed to another. The decision to cut the list of affiliate partners was made Monday, Oct. 8, he said.
Heath said he and Esse were both involved in the education committee recommended a change in governance to New River Medical Center Board of Directors.
“This is about very specific issues,” Heath said. “We are challenged because we are not health care professionals.” According to Health, community members who were asked to serve on the task force were asked to come in and make a judgment call on something just a little bit outside of their normal experience.
“We sat for the better part of five hours going through each and every line item. We jiggered the figures and re-jiggered the figures.” he said. In the end, the task force came to the general consensus that there wasn’t a stand-out affiliation candidate. Task force members then started looking at what best fit New River Medical Center’s current culture as well as a solution to ending the continuing conflict involving doctors working at the nearby Monticello Medical Clinic.
“This is a very important step we’re going to be taking,” Heath said. “The board knows the gravity of it, and the physicians know it. Each and everyone of them said the same thing. ‘We have to find a solution to our differences.’ We’re not going to demonize them, and we’re not going to find a culprit in administration.”
The affiliation task force and nonprofit board of directors plan to make a final affiliation recommendation to the Monticello-Big Lake Hospital District Board of Directors in December.  If the hospital board is supportive of the affiliation recommendation, New River Medical Center will begin the process of due diligence at the beginning of the new year.
“We want to do our due diligence with each one, and if somebody falls out, we will go back and look at this again,” Esse said.