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'We just keep growing': Perham Health marks 10-year milestone

On Jan. 9, Perham Health celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the opening of its new facility at 1000 Coney Street West.

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Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Matt Nelsen, right, performs a procedure on Jan. 6 at Perham Health. On Jan. 9, the facility celebrated 10 years since the opening of the new Perham Health, which has seen remarkable growth over the past decade. (Contributed / Perham Health / Perham Focus)
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PERHAM —If Perham Health CEO Chuck Hofius could tell you one thing about the hospital's past 10 years, it’s, “We just keep growing and growing.”

Hofius said he's seen continued growth at Perham Health since the opening of its new facility a decade ago, not only in the facility itself but also in the services and providers added and in the way staff are increasingly able to put patients and families at the center of care.

At the time of the building’s construction, “One of the big fears was, 'Would that growth happen?'" he recalled. "We needed growth to pay for this building... Would the community support us?"

Today, Hofius and other Perham Health leaders and stakeholders have clear answers to those uncertainties — and plenty of reasons to celebrate. All their big questions have been positively answered, and their goals for the building achieved: more space led to more providers and services, a state-of-the-art facility helped ease recruitment struggles, departments grew above their expectations, and families and patients could receive care in a more healing environment.

Perham Health hit the 10-year milestone on Jan. 9, 10 years to the day since the new facility at 1000 Coney Street West opened its doors to patients and the public for the first time.

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Growth over the past decade

What the old hospital lacked in space, the new hospital added abundantly. Accordingly, 20% growth was planned for each department. That plan was exceeded by far: From 2011 to 2021, obstetrics grew 99%, CT scans 152%, mammograms 161%, ultrasounds 97%, MRIs 85% and surgeries 59%, according to statistics provided by Hofius.

“OB was an area that was slowly declining over time,” Hofius explained. “We’ve grown 100% since we were in the other hospital.”

That growth requires more staff, and thus the number of providers has increased. Hofius said he's seen the number of providers increase from five to 25 over his 25 years at Perham Health, with a significant amount of that growth happening in the last 10 years. Last year, 2021, was a record recruitment year , with four new providers added. That followed the addition of one to three new providers every year from 2016 to 2020.

In all, with their Sanford Health partnership, Perham Health has 650 employees.

“Our medical staff has more than doubled in that 10-year period of time,” Hofius said.

New services added range from from total hip and knee replacements to water births, more preventative care, specialty areas like stroke-ready and baby-friendly, and mental health services. The hospital has added three mental health providers and a psychiatrist.

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One of the statistics Hofius is most proud of : Patient growth.

Perham Health leaders anticipated 25% growth in the first two years after the new facility opened, but studies have shown that most hospitals return to their same service capacity within five years of a new building opening. At Perham Health, though, revenue has climbed up 270% from 2011 to 2021.

Hofius said the “how” of delivering service, with care centered on patients and families, is what has kept new patients coming in and existing patients coming back.

The growth at Perham Health is a boost for the whole Perham community, Hofius said. More employees means an economic plus for area shopping, dining and housing, and more students for the school district. The new services also allow patients to receive more of the care they need, like surgeries and therapies, close to home.

“We’ve been able to bring a lot more…outreach specialists here, and then the follow-up of patients is so much better…when it’s local," Hofius said. "You might have 60% (of patients) actually drive to Fargo, and we have about probably 95% that actually follow-up when you can provide those services here.”

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Respiratory therapist Lindsay Branby, left, works with a post-COVID patient. Respiratory therapy, water births, the KLN clinic, diabetes prevention and mental health first aide are some of the services Perham Health added to the new hospital. (Contributed / Perham Health / Perham Focus)

The growth has been such that, in 2019, a $3.5 million, 9,000-square-foot addition was built onto the clinic.

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“Be comfortable with risk. Sometimes you want to make sure everything’s going to be successful before you start it, and not everything we’ve started has been successful,” Hofius said of a lesson staff have embraced over the decade. “We’ve been able to grow so much quicker and bigger and serve the community a lot more by taking risks.”

The old hospital building on 3rd Street Southwest still serves the community, as it's used by Perham Health and Living for things like memory care, pediatric therapy, adult day services and more. There are also businesses that lease space there, such as Behavior Care Specialists, United Way and Minge Law Office.

Boosting family-patient-centered care

From the building design to care decisions at all levels, patients and families are the focus at Perham Health. A Partners in Care Council meets monthly, and community members serve on every committee at Perham Health.

The goal of family-patient-centered care hasn’t just happened, Hofius said, it’s succeeded to the tune of hundreds of hospitals touring the space to learn how to do what Perham Health does. Families are welcomed into patient rooms with functional spaces designed for them, and patients have a comfortable experience that's more similar to a hotel room than a traditional hospital room.

“This building really helped us with patient-family-centered care, because you always feel like you’re in the way, everything’s so small and there’s not a place for family members (in a more traditional hospital setting), and in this building, we have designated spaces all over,” Hofius said.

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The Partners in Care Council worked to design the Perham Health building from the ground up. From the hospital rooms to common lounge areas, the building is designed to not feel clinical. (Carter Jones / FOCUS)

The design of the hospital is helpful in healing, with spaces like a meditation room and big windows that allow natural light to flow in. Staff are encouraged to have moments away, too, with “off-stage” areas in every department.

“That’s part of healing, too, is just the mindset," Hofius said. "If you feel, ‘Oh my god, I’m in a hospital and it’s depressing...,' or, ‘This is a beautiful space and people are so nice.' All that helps healing.”

“We really include patients and families because nobody knows your body, nobody knows what’s going on at home like the patient and family,” he added. “It’s really listening at a very deep level to patients and families and providing care.”

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Perham Health. (Submitted photo)

But building for the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t in the design plans. With this surprise, negative pressure rooms had to expand from two to 10 in the inpatient areas, and the infusion therapy area, one of the spaces “busting at the seams,” needed to include rooms for monoclonal antibody therapy.

“We had drilled for pandemics my entire career. Did we really think we were going to be dealing with one? Probably not,” Hofius said. “And then the length of the pandemic, we’re coming up on two years.”

As new knowledge of the virus keeps coming, Perham Health staff keep adjusting to best care for patients.

“We’re having to be in a constant learning mode,” Hofius remarked. And staff are asked to do more and more as staffing needs continue. “We’re delivering on that care and that service, and that’s not me, that’s our staff, our amazing team of people delivering care."

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Perham Health has 650 employees with 30 new providers recruited over the past 10 years. Surgical technician Heather Pich-Offerdahl, left, RN Misty Fields, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Todd Sekundiak and CRNA Lowell Vomhof following a joint replacement on Jan. 4, 2022. (Contributed / Perham Health / Perham Focus)

Looking to the future

Today, space issues at Perham Health are coming to a head in the surgery, emergency department, infusion therapy and radiology areas. Hofius said people can expect another groundbreaking at the 60-acre Perham Health site within the next three years.

“10 years in, we’re already looking at a second addition to the building because of that kind of growth,” Hofius said. “It’s a good problem to have, but it was surprising to us. We thought we had built for quite a ways into the future.”

The next three years will also include six new medical staff members, and in April 2022, the addition of chemotherapy services.

“We’re all really proud of what we’ve been able to build together as a team,” Hofius said. “All 600-plus people working together have resulted in this growth and this kind of service that people have in the community.”

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Chuck Hofius, Perham Health CEO portrait

Related Topics: HEALTH NEWS
Rebecca Mitchell is a Multimedia Reporter for the Wadena Pioneer Journal and Perham Focus. She loves capturing local stories through words, photos and videos, and providing resources for the community.
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