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Northwest Medical Center and MeritCare Announce Partnership

On Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007, Northwest Medical Center (NWMC), Thief River Falls, Minn., and MeritCare Health System, Fargo, N.D., will become partners. The two organizations' mutual goal is for Thief River Falls to become a regional health-care destination, providing patients with integrated health services. On Nov. 1, NWMC will change its name to MeritCare Thief River Falls Northwest Medical Center.

On Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007, Northwest Medical Center (NWMC), Thief River Falls, Minn., and MeritCare Health System, Fargo, N.D., will become partners. The two organizations' mutual goal is for Thief River Falls to become a regional health-care destination, providing patients with integrated health services. On Nov. 1, NWMC will change its name to MeritCare Thief River Falls Northwest Medical Center.

NWMC began searching for a partner last year. In December, talks between NWMC and MeritCare began. In May 2007, Altru Northwest Clinic, which is located on NWMC's campus, became a MeritCare clinic, and changed its name to Northwest MeritCare Clinic.

NWMC CEO Chris Harff says, "Our priority has been to partner with an organization who can help us ensure that quality health care is delivered to the people of the Thief River Falls region. We feel MeritCare is that partner." MeritCare's president/CEO Dr. Roger Gilbertson says, "The staff at Northwest have really done an excellent job of caring for their patients. We are very pleased to partner with them and are excited about working with them to make Thief River Falls a destination for health-care services in that region."

Some additional information:
Staffing - All current NWMC employees will become MeritCare employees on Nov. 1; Chris Harff will remain CEO.
Facility - MeritCare has made the commitment to either remodel the current hospital in Thief River Falls or build a new hospital in a different location within 5-7 years.

Financial health - Partnering with MeritCare will give NWMC additional financial strength and the financial results that come with being part of a larger organization. Examples of this are in their relationships and negotiations with vendors and payors.

Information technology (IT) enhancements - A number of IT enhancements will be made. Two examples are:
  • Electronic patient records (EPR) - Staff will have access to EPR, which is a computerized record-keeping system for medical records. Patients' charts, which historically consisted of paper documentation of medical information from past clinic visits, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, medications and lab tests, will be converted to a computerized form and kept confidentially in a computer database. This means that providers and staff will have a system available at their fingertips that allows for advanced clinical decision making and it places patients' records when and where they are needed.
  • Picture archival communications systems (PACS) - PACS gives health-care providers fast and easy access to radiology images and reports on their computers. Multiple users can simultaneously view information; this means that a radiologist or provider working in the region can consult with a radiologist in Fargo from their respective officers, both viewing the exact same information.

Additional services
  • ASK-A-NURSE® - In September 2007, MeritCare's ASK-A-NURSE® services became available to people in the Thief River Falls region.

Northwest Medical Center - NWMC is a not-for-profit organization that includes a 25-bed critical access hospital, an inpatient and outpatient mental health unit, a free-standing 15-bed group home for mentally ill, and a free-standing 10-bed treatment center for emotionally disturbed children. The organization employs over 400 people.

MeritCare - MeritCare Health System is a not-for-profit, integrated health care delivery system headquartered in Fargo, N.D. The organization is comprised of one hospital with two locations (583 beds); MeritCare Children's Hospital; MeritCare Roger Maris Cancer Center; MeritCare Heart Center; 17 locations in Fargo/Moorhead/West Fargo; and 26 regional clinics throughout eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. The organization also manages hospitals in Hillsboro, N.D., and in Bagley, Mahnomen and Perham, Minn. MeritCare has over 75 medical specialties, with 400 doctors and 174 physician assistants and advanced practice nurses.