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Medical partner donates to hospital

From cocktail hour to coat check, a matter of a few hours, Perham Memorial Hospital and Home's bank account grew by a tidy $100,000.

Special guest for the annual Perham Hospital District banquet and meeting was Becky Nelson, chief operating officer for Sanford Health.

As a gesture of collaboration to Perham, following the merger of MeritCare and Sanford, Nelson announced the donation of $100,000 to the Perham Hospital District.

"Over the past 120 days, we've created a new family...The new 'We,'" said Nelson to a full house at the Perham Lakeside Golf Course banquet room Feb. 25. The annual event gathers a varied audience of hospital supporters, staff, board members and officials from the many townships and neighboring cities that comprise the district.

The merger of the two Midwestern health care groups creates a 30-hospital consortium.

"We are committed to rural America, because that is who and what we are," said Nelson.

The merger is one of several high profile developments in health care for in the region.

For East Otter Tail County, it has been an especially eventful 12 months in the medical sector.

Ground was broken for the new $36 million-plus Perham hospital late in 2009. Chad Bormann, of the BHH Partners architecture firm, outlined progress of the project at the annual meeting.

Chuck Hofius is back

Also eventful was the resignation-and rapid return-of PMHH administrator Chuck Hofius. The annual meeting Feb. 25 was one of his first public appearances since his departure.

"Well, as most of you here know, I took a little vacation in January," said Hofius--somewhat sheepishly. "But I realized that I had left my heart in Perham."

In only a few days in the high-level administrative position he accepted for an elderly care organization in the Twin Cities, Hofius decided he wanted to come back to Perham. So, within a matter of little more than a couple weeks, Hofius was the subject of farewell parties in Perham; welcome receptions in Eden Prairie; and welcome back messages in Perham.

The PMHH district board accepted his return to the position, with virtually no discussion or hesitation.

Since his absence from Perham was barely a blip on the radar screen, Hofius was in fine position to deliver a "year in review" report and provide a glimpse at the future.

Three family practice docs sought over next year

Five new medical professionals joined Perham Memorial Hospital last year, while four resigned or retired-including longtime East Otter Tail-New York Mills physician Dr. Gary Robinson.

Four new professionals will be joining PMH in the coming months. But there are still eight total open positions that are on the roster-including three family medicine practitioners for the Perham, New York Mills and Ottertail areas.

Recruitment of new medical professionals is always a task, but Hofius doesn't view the PMH situation with concern.

"If we look back at the past 12 years, we've always had turnover-so I don't see this as a trend," said Hofius. "But we do have some recruitment work to do."

How will new hospital be paid for?

"No new taxes" is Hofius's response to the question. The hospital district won't levy additional taxes to pay for the project.

However, there will be a 15 percent price increase for medical services in Perham, said Hofius. Medicare and the major insurance carriers have approved Perham's rate increase-meaning the price hike will be largely absorbed by medical insurance providers.

Also contributing to the financing of the hospital is growth. Based on the history of other hospitals, a move to a highly visible location-such as Highway 10, produces 20 percent growth.

New name for Perham Memorial Hospital?

"Memorial" isn't the image hospital officials want to project with the new facility.

"Memorial says 'cemetery, end of life, death, dying,'" said Hofius, adding that there will be much thought and discussion about a new name for the institution.

"We will want the name to match the image we want to project," said Hofius.