Clearwater County Commission Announces Management Agreement

Today, the Clearwater County Commission announced that it has signed a management agreement for MeritCare Health System to manage Clearwater Health Services, located in Bagley, Minn. The agreement covers Clearwater County Memorial Hospital, Clearwater Health Services clinics in Bagley and Clearbrook, and Clearwater Ambulance Services.

Today, the Clearwater County Commission announced that it has signed a management agreement for MeritCare Health System to manage Clearwater Health Services, located in Bagley, Minn. The agreement covers Clearwater County Memorial Hospital, Clearwater Health Services clinics in Bagley and Clearbrook, and Clearwater Ambulance Services.

Under the agreement, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2007, MeritCare will provide management services in the areas of management, human resources, education, compliance, nursing, material services, facilities revenue management and information technology.

Clearwater County Memorial Hospital is a 25-bed, not-for-profit, community-owned facility. It was built in 1950 and replaced Clearwater Hospital. The new hospital was dedicated on Aug. 13, 1950; the first patient was admitted on Aug. 22. At that time, the staff consisted of a superintendent, a special supervisor, a receptionist/bookkeeper, an engineer, two RNs and seven LPNs. Today, the hospital, clinics and ambulance service employ 92 people.

MeritCare is an integrated health-care delivery system headquartered in Fargo, N.D. Founded in the early 1900s as Fargo Clinic and St. Luke's Hospital, MeritCare has evolved into the region's premier health-care system. MeritCare's service area spans 250 miles west to east from Jamestown, N.D., to Bemidji, Minn. It has two hospital locations in Fargo, 17 locations in Fargo/Moorhead/West Fargo, 17 regional clinics in Minnesota and nine regional clinics in North Dakota. In addition, the system manages hospitals in Perham, Minn., Hillsboro, N.D., and Mahnomen, Minn.

Health-care organizations across the county have experienced great financial challenges over the past several years as reimbursement rates for medical services have continued to decrease. As a county-owned system, operating losses that Clearwater Health Services has experienced and, if continued, would have had to be passed on to property taxpayers in the county.

Because it's a larger health system, MeritCare will be able to provide efficiencies in management and consulting services, and obtain better pricing on supplies and equipment. As Tom Anderson, chair of the Clearwater County Commission explains, "The goal of working with MeritCare is to keep health-care services in our county, while reducing the burden on taxpayers. MeritCare has a lot of experience managing hospitals and clinics and we feel very positive about this new relationship."

In early January, more meetings will be held with Clearwater staff and MeritCare management to discuss key issues at hand. The commission has asked MeritCare to review and evaluate staffing and operational components. While no decisions have been made, the goal is to offer patients the best-possible services and retain as many staff as possible while creating efficiencies that will reduce reliance on property tax revenue to fund operations.

Randy Beck, executive partner, and Bonnie Anderson, business services manager, MeritCare Bemidji, will serve as lead staff at Clearwater in addition to their current roles. Larry Laudon, who has been the administrator of Clearwater Health Services since 1994 will be leaving the organization on 12/28/2006.