UHD committed to local care

ABOVE: United Hospital District’s Fairmont clinic, located at 1950 Center Creek Drive, is nearly finished. Twelve new exam rooms and two new procedures were added in the expansion with the goal of offering more services to patients.

FAIRMONT– United Hospital District (UHD) is making fast progress on transforming the former Dulcimer Medical Center building in Fairmont into a facility that will fit all of the additional services the healthcare system wants to bring in. While it’s currently open and patients are being seen, it’s expected that the building will be complete in early June.

Groundbreaking on the $4 million expansion of the facility, located at 1950 Center Creek Drive, took place in early September 2023. As part of the expansion, 12 new exam rooms and two new procedure rooms are being added.

UHD first opened a location in Fairmont on 1st street in 2016 though it already had hospice and home health set up. Dr. Aaron Johnson, Chief Medical Officer, said that the decision to establish something in Fairmont was because after some changes were made to another health care facility in Fairmont, they noticed patients driving to Blue Earth to establish care.

“There was a need for providers and it didn’t make sense for people to continue to drive over from Fairmont,” Johnson said.

Rick Ash, CEO of UHD, shared why the organization wanted to have a bigger space in Fairmont.

“With the original clinic, it made sense to have something there because the community was asking for it. Very quickly we grew out of the size of it and maxed out so we started looking for another location,” Ash said.

They looked at both existing buildings as well as schematic plans to build a new facility. Then, Ash said he started having conversations with Dr. Steven Parnell, who owned Dulcimer but had been delivering babies at UHD in Blue Earth.

“I asked if at some point he would look at retiring and what he would do with the building and if we could talk about a transition,” Ash said.

The purchase agreement was signed at the end of 2021 but it wasn’t until March 1, 2024, that UHD took over the building.

“Our thinking is, in order to keep rural healthcare viable and in the community it serves, we have to find a way to stay viable,” Ash said. “More and more it seems that people are leaving their communities to get care. We believe if we do it right and plan accordingly, we can bring more care to the community and keep people in the community.”

As for bringing in new providers, in the last month UHD has brought on two new nurse practitioners and two new physicians.

“That’s between our Wells, Blue Earth and Fairmont locations. We’ve been busy but it’s getting more patients options for providers so they can find the best personal fit for them,” said Sue Hassing, clinic administrator.

Johnson added that in the past 18 months they brought on three new female providers to do obstetrics and gynecology.

“When we interview people, I think what attracts them is that they want to be able to practice their trade without a significant amount of restrictions,” he said.

Ash spoke more about UHD’s culture and said that the providers that they currently have and are recruiting are looking for a full-scope practice in order to use all of the skills they have.

“Sometimes in a larger organization everything is so linear. The way I see it, with the continuity of care and the ability the physical has to know the patient on a comprehensive level, I think the care is better,” Ash said.

Hassing said they have received positive feedback from patients on how the transformation of the building and transition has gone and with the care provided thus far.

“It’s been nice to see the hard work pay off and the appreciation in the eyes of the patients,” she said.

The project remains both on budget and on time as the mild winter allowed work to get done without pause for bad weather. In addition to the expansion, some upgrades to the existing building are being done so that when everything is complete it will look like one building, as opposed to an older building conjoined to a newer one.

While staff is excited for the building to be complete, it’s mostly looking forward to providing care to the people in the community.

“We’re focused on keeping as much as possible close to home and even bringing more into the area so that people don’t have to travel to receive care. Everything we do, we try to keep that perspective in mind in order to improve access to care. That’s why we’re investing a fair amount of dollars– it’s the right thing to do,” Ash said.


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